Josh Norman's future tied to cap hit and Redskins' young corners

Because of his high salary-cap number, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, shown covering Paul Richardson on Tuesday in training camp, could become expendable in a year or two if the team's young corners develop. Steve Helber/AP Photo

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Washington Redskins like drafting cornerbacks, having selected four in the past two years combined. It could add up to future help -- and a reason to move on from Josh Norman. A look at that, plus a quick look at Alex Smith 's impact, is on tap in this week's mailbag.

John Keim: I have to admit I’ve wondered about his future with their stockpiling of young defensive backs. I advocate for the stockpiling strategy because it’s such a premium spot and with most teams using three-receiver sets, you need more depth than ever at corner. Adding depth isn’t just about preparing for a time when Norman is no longer on the team.


Let’s say Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau stand out this season, Orlando Scandrick looks like he can play slot another year or so and Adonis Alexander develops nicely. At that point, they could face a decision on Norman.

Before we get to the cost, it’s not as if Norman played poorly last year. He did not. But he did not make the impact plays they needed when he had an opportunity. He was not targeted often; he also dropped a handful of potential picks. Most top-level corners aren’t targeted, but Norman still could have picked off a couple passes. He'd be the first to admit this. It’s not as if we’ve seen a drop-off in performance during camp.


His cap number this season will be $16.7 million, topping all corners. It drops to $14.5 million in 2019; as of now he’d carry the fourth-highest cap hit among corners. If they cut him in the 2019 offseason he’d save the Redskins $11.5 million, but he’d still cost them $6 million against the cap because of prorated signing bonuses. It would either all go onto 2019 or be split over the following two seasons, depending on the timing of a release.

That’s a lot of money to spread over two years, but it’s not out of the question if his play slips and others emerge. If the Redskins have done their job on the personnel and coaching side -- and the young corners develop -- then they might take a cap hit, but not feel the loss on the field.

Keim: I will be writing more about this soon, so I won’t get into every aspect of this. I can say that Alex Smith’s impact has been big, though in some cases it’s from an intangible standpoint. He’s well-liked in the locker room, more of a guy who jokes and talks smack with others off the field. Colt McCoy has always been a popular player in the locker room because of how he conducts himself; Smith is like that as well.

On the field, the big difference is the consistency. Smith is not Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. Receivers are happy about the ball placement; time and again you hear about him throwing a “catchable” ball. That not only means velocity, but where he’s placing it for the receiver. Smith consistently allows receivers to run after the catch and throws with a good amount of trust. His accuracy is noticeable, too, on balls in contested areas; he throws players out of collisions as much as possible. Smith’s ability to keep plays alive while scrambling means receivers know they always must carry out their routes, even if they’re not a primary target initially. That matters, too.

I know a lot of people debate the stats of Smith and Kirk Cousins. But trust me on this: The receivers are happy he’s here. The organization is thrilled, too. Smith might just be a solid/above average quarterback, but he will mean a lot to this team. I’ve said this before, but he’s just a better fit with this team.

Keim: I would not put either one as the most surprising, considering they were either on the roster or on practice squad last year. The key for Robertson is flashing vs. starting-caliber tackles; I need to see more of that and not just against backup types. But he’s off to an excellent start and they’ve always liked his athleticism. Kalis has a definite chance to stick around.

But the guy who would qualify as the biggest surprise thus far is safety Kenny Ladler. I stress: We’ll learn a lot more about the safeties once the games begin. We need to see their angles to the ball and how they handle the communication aspect; both are rather huge.

But Ladler has flashed enough to warrant attention entering the preseason games. The big key will be his special-teams performance. If the Redskins keep five safeties, as they often do, then one will likely be a former undrafted player. Fish Smithson is in the mix, as is Quin Blanding, but Ladler through the first week appears to have stood out more.

Coach Jay Gruden singled him out when talking about the safeties earlier in camp -- after talking about the four who are firmly on the roster: D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett and Troy Apke. Keep an eye on Ladler when the games begin, along with cornerback Danny Johnson, another who would qualify as a surprise.