Through the 2015 NFL season, Pro Football Rumors has been looking ahead to the 2016 offseason, gauging the salary cap situation for a number of teams with significant cap charges for next season. The cap for 2016 hasn’t been set yet, but we can still assess the salary commitments made by a club and determine whether or not that club will be in good financial shape going forward.
In addition to evaluating each team’s overall cap situation, we’ll focus in on a few key players who may be candidates to be extended, restructured, or released by their current teams. These lists aren’t comprehensive, and depending on a player’s 2015 performance and health, he could drop off one of these lists – or be added to one – as the season goes on. For now though, these are some players to watch.
Using data from Over The Cap, we’re making our way through NFL teams in order of total salary commitments for 2016. Today’s team is Washington, which currently has the seventh-highest total for its ’16 cap.
Let’s dive in….
Top 10 cap hits for 2016:
- Robert Griffin III, QB: $16,155,000
- Trent Williams, LT: $10,700,000
- Pierre Garcon, WR: $10,200,000
- Chris Culliver, CB: $9,250,000
- DeSean Jackson, WR: $9,250,000
- Jason Hatcher, DL: $8,750,000
- Ryan Kerrigan, OLB: $8,450,000
- Dashon Goldson, S: $8,000,000
- DeAngelo Hall, DB: $5,062,500
- Perry Riley, ILB: $5,049,804
Current 2016 cap number for top 51 players: $143,859,037
Washington, like many NFL teams, has a quarterback atop its list of cap commitments for 2016. Unlike most of those other clubs though, Washington’s QB almost certainly won’t be with the team next year, and removing him from the books for ’16 won’t leave any dead money on the cap, since his salary is currently guaranteed for injury only.
Still, releasing Griffin likely won’t be the only cap-clearing move required for Washington in the offseason, since the team’s current starting quarterback isn’t under contract yet for 2016. Depending on how much it costs to re-sign Kirk Cousins, the club could end up using a good chunk of that RGIII money on Cousins instead.
Candidates for extension:
- Chris Baker, D
- DeSean Jackson, WR
While Cousins is a candidate for an extension, this section focuses on players who are under contract for 2016 already, whose cap numbers could potentially be reduced a little by extending them beyond next season.
Jackson is an interesting case, since his current deal features a 2017 salary, but ’17 is essentially a dummy year, since the contract is set to void after 2016. The speedy wideout has been injured this season, and hasn’t been a huge part of the offense even when he’s been healthy, so perhaps Washington won’t want to invest any additional money in him. But reworking his deal to keep him under contract for an extra couple years could reduce his 2016 cap hit without the team taking on much long-term risk. While there are a number of different ways the club could go with Jackson, I expect he’ll be back for at least one more year, since there will still be $6MM+ in dead money left on his deal.
As for Baker, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that he signed a three-year contract extension, but 2016 will be the final year of that agreement. He’s still young and productive enough to warrant another extension, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington let him play out the final year of his contract before making a decision.
Candidates for restructure:
- Chris Culliver, CB
- Shawn Lauvao, G
Like center Kory Lichtensteiger, Lauvao opened the year as a starter on Washington’s offensive line, but wasn’t among the league’s top interior linemen, and eventually landed on IR. Both of those players will have cap hits in the $4-5MM range in 2016, which isn’t a significant price to pay for a starting offensive lineman. But those are high prices for backups, so if the club has other options it likes better, it could try to rework both deals — particularly Lauvao’s. A pay cut may also be in play.
Culliver, meanwhile, isn’t going anywhere after signing a long-term free agent contract earlier this year, since his 2016 salary is fully guaranteed. Beyond ’16 though, there’s only $2.5MM in dead money – and no guaranteed salary – left on the pact, so restructuring it to reduce next year’s cap charge wouldn’t put Washington in a bad spot for future seasons.
Candidates for pay cut or release:
- Pierre Garcon, WR
- Dashon Goldson, S
- Robert Griffin III, QB
- DeAngelo Hall, DB
- Jason Hatcher, DL
- Perry Riley, ILB
- Andre Roberts, WR
Griffin is the most logical release candidate here, but there’s no shortage of them for Washington, giving the team plenty of flexibility heading into the offseason. If the club needs the cap room, it could take an approach similar to the one taken by the Saints last winter, when New Orleans asked a handful of players to take pay cuts to avoid being released — some accepted those cuts, while others were dropped.
As we weigh the pros and cons for keeping the non-RGIII players on this list, let’s start in the secondary, where Goldson and Hall are the candidates to be cut. The Buccaneers’ willingness to pay a portion of Goldson’s salary allowed Washington to acquire the safety in a trade earlier this year, but with his salary set to increase to a non-guaranteed $7.5MM next year, the team will be less willing to pay up — especially for a player who currently ranks 83rd of 84 qualified safeties, per Pro Football Focus.
Could Hall step into Goldson’s starting safety spot? Maybe, but Washington may prefer to identify a younger, cheaper replacement, rather than counting on a high-priced veteran like Hall to make the transition from cornerback at this stage in his career.
At the wide receiver position, Garcon has posted pedestrian numbers since racking up 113 catches in 2013, and while that can be partially attributed to inconsistent quarterback play, you’d still expect a little more out of a player with a $10MM+ cap hit. The club could create $8MM in cap savings by cutting him, and another $3MM by releasing Roberts, who has caught just 11 balls this season.
Elsewhere, Hatcher and Riley are two players who could return in 2016 if Washington isn’t short on cap space. Neither player has quite lived up to expectations since they signed their current contracts in March 2014, but Hatcher has been decent in the middle, and Riley has looked a bit better in recent weeks. The team would create about $4MM in cap savings by releasing either player, so that will have to be a consideration, even if they ultimately remain on the roster.
Contract information from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.