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The 5 O’Clock Club: Comp picks, salary cap, contracts, divas & roster building

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Compensatory pick update

Here’s the latest chart from OverTheCap:

Remember that this is just an estimate by OverTheCap; actual comp picks awarded by the NFL Management Committee may be different.

These draft picks would be awarded next year (in 2019) and have no impact at all on the 2018 draft.

There is a maximum limit of 4 compensatory picks that can be awarded to a single franchise in a season, so as it stands right now, the Redskins would not get a pick for Niles Paul, but would likely be awarded a 3rd, a 5th and two 6th round picks.

The other maximum that is in play is 32 — that’s the maximum number of total compensatory picks that can be awarded league-wide for one season. On a quick count, I see 37 qualifying free agents that could bring compensatory picks to their teams. If that number is accurate, at least 5 of them would not be awarded. On this basis, one of the Redskins’ expected 6th rounders (possibly both of them) could be at risk.

Other teams with a lot of potential compensatory picks on the way after this off-season:

Patriots: two 3rds, a 6th, two TBD (5 total)

Vikings: 3rd, 6th, two 7th, one TBD (5 total)

Rams: two 3rds, two 7ths (4 total)

Cardinals: 7th, three TBD (4 total)

The signing of Pernell McPhee and the just-announced trade of Su’a Cravens have no impact at all on this calculation. If the Redskins were successful in signing Johnathan Hankins, it also would not count in this formula. In other words, absent a surprise, this chart is starting to look pretty final.

May 8th is an important date for compensatory picks this year. Any player movement after that date does not affect the calculation for compensatory picks.

Pernell McPhee’s contract

Pernell McPhee’s contract breakdown has been entered into the system: It’s a one-year deal worth $1.8 million, but he’ll only count $1.7 million vs. the salary cap. He received a $350,000 signing bonus -- the only portion that’s guaranteed. So if he somehow doesn’t play well or gets hurt, he’s easy to cut in camp. He receives a roster bonus of $31,250 per game up to $500,000. It’s certainly a cost-effective contract for the Redskins. Junior Galette turned down what he felt was a low offer from the team. McPhee will be a backup outside linebacker for Washington.

Where are we on the salary cap?

Currently, OverTheCap estimates that the Redskins have the 12th highest amount of available cap space in the NFL for the 2018 season. Of course, that can change quickly.

OTC estimated cap space on 28 March: $18.99m

- Pernell McPhee: $1.7m

+ Su’a Cravens: $295k

Current estimated cap space: $17.59m

By the way, the 5th round draft pick the Skins got from the Su’a Cravens trade has no effect on the Redskins off-season salary cap (and, therefore, the amount required to sign draft picks), as the salary for that slot is not high enough to qualify for the top 51 contracts.

The ‘fully guaranteed’ Cousins contract

For weeks before the Cousins contract with the Vikings was signed, I heard that he wanted a fully guaranteed contract. Good for him.

The contract was signed on 15 March; in the two weeks that have passed since then, I continue to read headlines and stories that talk about his ‘fully guaranteed’’ contract. There are hundreds of examples, but here’s one from yesterday:

Kirk Cousins never got a long-term deal in Washington, leaving him free to head to Minnesota for a fully guaranteed three-year contract as a free agent this offseason.

It’s not really a big deal, I guess, but I wonder why the national media continues to print & reprint this idea of an $84m fully guaranteed contract as if it were a true fact.

It’s fake news.

Here’s what OverTheCap reports about the Cousins deal:

Kirk Cousins signed a three year, $84 million contract with the Vikings on March 15, 2018. $82.5 million of the contract is fully guaranteed. Cousins received a $3 million signing bonus. Cousins can not be traded nor can he the transition tag be used after the expiration of his contract. Another $6 million in incentives are available. Per Albert Breer the incentives are the following: $500,000 for winning the Super Bowl, $1 million for winning the Super Bowl and ranking top 8 in points, $1.5 million for winning the Super Bowl and ranking top 5 in points, and finally $2 million if he wins the Super Bowl and the team ranks top 3 in points.

Here’s how news media outlets normally report that kind of contract:

Total contract value: up to $90 million with incentives

Salary & expected bonuses: $84 million

Fully guaranteed: $82.5 million

So, I can understand not reporting the $90m number, since hitting that number would require winning three consecutive super bowls, but I don’t really understand why ‘journalists’ keep repeating the $84m fully guaranteed line, when it’s just... not... true.

So, is Odell Beckham available for trade?

John Mara said he was tired of answering questions about OBJ.

In short order, we heard that the Rams, for one, had contacted the Giants to inquire about his availability.

The next day, headlines declared that Dave Gettleman was upset about OBJ-will-holdout-for-new-deal rumors.

The crazy thing is that the Giants brass clearly created this entire situation themselves.

Gettleman’s interview with NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones was a fascinating example of message-sending. While Gettleman later said that “you don’t quit on talent,” it was remarkable that he wouldn’t even clearly answer the question as to whether he’d like to retain one of the NFL’s best receivers who is currently under contract.

Giants coach Pat Shurmur struck a similar tone at the breakfast, only saying about Beckham that “he’s on our team.” The cold approach could be viewed as a direct response to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport’s report Monday that Beckham will not take the field under the terms of his current contract. Beckham has one year left on his rookie deal.

Why do I care?

I just want to make sure that the Redskins don’t try to get this guy on the team. OBJ? Great on the field during the play. Phenomenal talent.

But the diva attitude, the childish behavior, the bad judgement and the loud mouth are all things I think distract his team from the business of winning a championship, and he loses concentration on the field when opponents get inside his head. Much as I hate seeing the Redskins have to face him on the field, I hope he stays with the Giants, and that they pay him tons of guaranteed money for a long term contract.

I would never want to see this guy in burgundy & gold.

Is the Redskins roster good enough, and is it getting better, worse, or treading water?

The way you look at the answer to this question is hugely affected by what you think of the 2017 roster and the impact of the injuries.

I re-watched the Redskins-Chiefs game this weekend, and was reminded just how well the Redskins played in Weeks 2, 3 & 4 last season, and how the season began to unravel in Arrowhead Stadium when Trent Williams was injured and Josh Norman broke his ribs.

Bruce Allen said the other day that you can’t ignore the injuries... that there are no “what ifs”... that the Redskins were 7-9 last season and they have to accept that, and get better.

That’s the attitude I wanna hear from the front office!!

Fortunately, I’m not part of the front office; I’m a fan. I think that if the Redskins won 7 games with the roster as injury-plagued as it was, then they were likely a 9 to 11 win roster in 2017 with a ‘normal’ level of injury, so I don’t think the roster needs a dramatic overhaul for 2018, but it does need work.

Every roster needs work every off season.

As fans, I think we get a bit schizophrenic in our ideas. We want the Redskins to draft and develop, but then panic if the team is quiet in free agency and doesn’t pull off sweeping trades for big name players from other teams so we can be like the Rams or the Eagles in the off season.

Sometimes roster-building can take the form of letting guys walk and letting young guys step up into a role. This is what it means to draft & develop.

We saw Matt Ioannidis step up last year. We saw Anthony Lanier improve. We got good play out of Zach Vigil. Ryan Grant had a consistent season with solid production after three years of producing very little. Chase Roullier stepped up as a 6th round rookie when his number was called. Montae Nicholson got hurt early in the season, but prior to that, he flashed in a big way.

In 2018, the team might just be better because the draft & develop plan is working.

Roster development might involve relying on young players that the Redskins drafted — letting them shine after a year or two of playing behind other, older players who have now gone to other teams. That’s actually what we’ve been begging the Redskins to do for years... now that they seem to be embracing that philosophy, it seems to be making a certain sliver of the fan base uncomfortable. I’m thinking about players like Montae Nicholson, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and maybe Jeremy Sprinkle or Ryan Anderson. Not every improvement comes as the result of a free agent signing or an early-round draft selection.

Let me — very briefly — give my thoughts on position groups, and what’s happening with them. I will include injuries, young player development and salary cap considerations in my very quick comments.


The Redskins accomplished a lot here. They upgraded the position, bringing in a mature quarterback with strong on-field skills in Alex Smith, who is known for his leadership and is coming off the best season of his career.

When I surveyed the QB landscape from mid-season forward in 2017, Alex Smith jumped right to the front of the queue for me in terms of which guy I thought Jay Gruden & the Redskins should put at the helm of the offense. I’d rather have Smith than Cousins if those are my choices. Here’s what I wrote about Alex Smith on the day the trade was announced:

I think Alex Smith is a good quarterback. According to Pro Football Reference, Smith has a career record of 88-62-1 as a starter. In the last 7 seasons (2011 to 2017) with two different teams, Alex Smith has a winning record in every season, with an overall record since 2011 of 69-31-1, a 68.3% winning percentage. Across a 16-game season, that equates to an 11-5 record.

Lest we forget, Smith was the first overall selection in the 2005 draft. He has a career TD:INT ratio of 183-96 (26-5 in 2017), and he’s been to the pro bowl 3 times, including back to back in ‘16 and ‘17.

In my opinion, Alex Smith is exactly the quarterback that Jay Gruden wants — conservative, careful with the ball, doesn’t make mistakes, has a quick release, situational awareness, can read a defense and understands the offense. I think that Alex Smith may be the ideal quarterback for Jay’s style of coaching.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Smith — who just put up his best career numbers as a passer in 2017... I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up bigger numbers in 2018 with Jay Gruden in charge.

Yes, really.

Each time I’ve said anything positive about Alex Smith since the trade was announced, most people who disagree point to the terms of the trade and challenge me to defend it. Here’s what I wrote about the trade the day it was announced:

When I first heard the report, everything sounded about right to me except the part about Kendall Fuller. I thought, “No way would the Redskins trade away one of our best players who has two years left on a contract that pays him about $900,000 per season.”

Well, Fuller has confirmed via Twitter that he’s been traded to the Chiefs.

This part of the deal really bothers me.

I would have considered Fuller to be the single most untradable player on the roster in terms of the Redskins front office taking care of business.

Personally, I don’t like what the ‘Skins gave up to get Smith, and I plan to write an entire article about the trade itself sometime during the offseason, but given the situation as it stood in mid-January, I think the best outcome the Redskins could hope for was to acquire Alex Smith. Poll results from mid-September indicate that a lot of fans liked the idea of signing Alex Smith to the Redskins:

I think that getting Smith as the quarterback for the next three seasons was the best move available to the team, and I think it cured a ton of ills.

The move also has the benefit of being a good salary cap value in the current quarterback market. Like the terms of the trade, I am not addressing what could have been done in 2015, 16 or 17 to retain Cousins. That’s history and we don’t have a time machine. The Redskins go into the 2018 season with a 3-time Pro Bowl quarterback and the 2017 passing leader under center instead of Colt McCoy or a rookie, and the team didn’t have to jump into the muck for a free agent quarterback on the 12th of March. The Redskins made the first move in the quarterback market (or perhaps the 2nd, behind the Niners), and got the best guy available to them.

The QB position is improved against 2017 and against the roster as it would have been without the trade.

Running back

Basically, nothing has changed with the Redskins backfield. Return from injury should help the RB situation improve versus the end of the ‘17 season, but outside of Chris Thompson, the group looks pretty average, and CT is only on field for 8 - 12 touches a game most likely.

Any improvement here is likely to come in the draft, but I think the chances are high that the Redskins will draft an explosive running back in the first two rounds.

Wide Receiver

As much as I liked the Terrelle Pryor signing last season, it didn’t work out. Pryor is now gone, Grant is gone, everyone else is back, and Richardson has been signed. I’m looking for the next step from Josh Doctson this season, and I think Mo Harris and Robert Davis are more than likely going to replace Grant’s lost production. Richardson’s speed should change the complexion of the Redskins offense and put more stress on defenses than Pryor actually created last year.

This group took a step forward from 2017; it’s an improved unit.

Tight End

The only sure change here is that Niles Paul is gone. He was more of a special teams player than an offensive player last season, and I think his ST contributions can be replaced.

Either Jordan Reed will be healthier this season or he won’t.

If he is healthier, the unit is better. If he isn’t healthier, the unit is no worse off.

I expect the Redskins to draft a big-bodied tight end for special teams, blocking, and to replace Vernon Davis in a season or two, but I expect it to be a late round pick.

This unit will probably be better than ‘17 based on Reed’s expected return to health and Sprinkle having a year of experience under his belt, but they should at least be no worse than last season.

Offensive Tackle

The same players — Williams, Moses, Nsekhe. They’ve had offseason surgery and rehab.

I expect them to be healthier, and therefore improved, versus 2017.

Interior Offensive Linemen

Roullier & Scherff are back, and the Redskins have a long list of ‘backup’ players who got experience last season. The team let Spencer Long go in free agency. I don’t know yet where the replacement is coming from. Until we find out, I’d have to say this unit has taken a small step back, but LG was the weakest OL position at the start of last season, so it’s not a major backwards step at the moment.

Roullier should be better with a full training camp as the starting Center. I think there’s still a chance the Redskins bring in a player via draft or free agency to plug the hole at LG. Until then, I score this as a slight regression.


We’ve got the same two guys in place as starters as we did in ‘17 — Swearinger and Nicholson. As a 2nd year player, Nicholson should be better anyway, but as a guy who spent most of last season injured, his return to health should provide a huge improvement here.

I was really buoyed by Jay Gruden’s comments about Montae at the annual meeting this week; they struck me as genuine and not just ‘coach speak’. This is the draft & develop concept that we need to have faith in after asking for it for so long. Nicholson may be the long-term answer at free safety, and Swearinger is competent and adds a lot of fire the defense.

This is an improved unit that may be further strengthened in the draft.


Gone are Fuller and Breeland. In comes Scandrick. This looks like a downgrade, but we have to consider the development of Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau.

This is that draft & develop concept at work yet again, and there’s a very good chance that the Redskins add another cornerback in the draft.

I’m going to say that this is a wash — that Dunbar & Moreau step up, and with Scandrick’s experience in the slot, and Josh Norman’s return to full health, this unit plays as well as it did last season. In fact, with Norman’s ribs no longer a concern, I wouldn’t be surprised if the CB group played better in ‘18.

Outside Linebacker

Kerrigan, Smith, Galette, Anderson becomes Kerrigan, Smith, McPhee, Anderson. I have all sorts of faith in the two starters, and I see McPhee as a very good (and very cheap) rotational depth player. The question marks remain around Anderson for the time being. I expect the Redskins to draft a developmental speed rusher in the middle rounds (4,5,6).

Overall, I’d say this group took the tiniest of steps backward, but that could be recovered with a good draft pick, or sophomore development by Anderson.

Inside Linebacker

With Zach Brown back and Mason Foster healthy, this unit’s starters are the same as they started last season. If injury doesn’t bite here, the unit should be improved. The depth is good, with Spaight, JH-C and Vigil.

This unit should be a improved from last season due to Foster’s health and another year of development for the backups.

Defensive Line

Jon Allen healthy. Matt Ioannidis healthy. Stacey McGee returns. On the basis of health, this unit improves. The two huge injuries in 2017 on defense were Josh Norman in Week 4 and Jonathan Allen in Week 5. The defense never recovered from either injury. Matty Ioannidis' broken hand was the other huge impact, though he eventually got back on the field 5late in the year.

The ‘Skins still have a chance to improve this unit in free agency; if they don’t, they will almost certainly add a player in the draft.

Even without adding anyone, this unit will be improved by return from injury, but the likely addition of another player in the next 4 weeks means that this is likely to be the most improved unit on the Redskins team from 2017’s injury plagued season to 2018.

Draft capital:

The Redskins traded away a 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft. The Redskins often do very well in middle rounds (3rd, 4th, 5th) so this hurts.

Of course, we just found out about the Su’a Cravens trade that has the Redskins moving up a few spots in the 4th & 5th round, and adds another 5th round, pick in this season’s draft. The Redskins seem to draft better in the middle rounds than they do in the second, so maybe this’ll turn out well for the front office. The Redskins now have 8 picks in April’s draft (no 3rd, two in the 5th, two in the 7th).

The Redskins appear to be in line to receive 4 compensatory picks in the 2019 draft (likely a 3rd, 5th, a pair in the 6th). This would give the front office 11 picks, and a lot of flexibility to move up to get a player if they wanted to next year (or even this year). Keeping and using all 11 picks would help build youth, depth, and manage the cap space.

With a likely combined 19 picks in the ‘18 and ‘19 drafts, the Redskins are in a position to move up to grab a player they like, or to get back into the 3rd round this year if they want to be there.

Cap space:

The Redskins have signed several contracts this off-season, and they have all been structured to provide maximum cap space flexibility in 2018 at the cost of a bit less flexibility in later years. The moves haven’t been the huge back-loaded contracts that will cripple a team and prevent it from roster-building later. In fact, it looks like the Redskins may end up rolling over most of the savings to the 2019 season rather than spending it on a lot of free agents this month.

Combined with the expected 11 draft picks in 2019, the rollover of around $10 million should see the Redskins in a very strong cap position next year.

Bottom line

With new players acquired via trade and free agency, a number of key Redskin veteran free agents re-signed, the expected development of a number of young players, the return to health of perhaps a dozen key players, and the draft still ahead of us, the Redskins roster has clearly improved.

  • Improved personnel: QB, WR
  • Improved by return from injury: OT, TE, DL, ILB, S
  • The same or slightly improved though development of young players: CB
  • About the same as last season: RB
  • A small step backward: Interior OL, OLB
  • Expected improvements from draft (or further free agent signings): RB, DL, CB

To me, this 2018 team already looks better than the battered and injury-depleted squad that played from Weeks 5 to 17 last season, largely due to players coming back from injury, and younger players who got unexpected playing experience last year. This looks like a good defense, and improved offense, and a team that knows where it’s headed.

The draft should make the team even stronger. By the time pre-season hits, this roster should be capable of 10-11 regular season wins and a playoff berth this year.

I’m looking forward to an exciting 2018 season, followed by a great 2019 off-season, with 11 draft picks and ample cap space available.


By the end of training camp, what are your expectations for the Redskins roster?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Better than it was at the end of camp last year
    (437 votes)
  • 6%
    Worse than it was at the end of camp last year
    (41 votes)
  • 29%
    About the same as it was at the end of camp last year
    (196 votes)
674 votes total Vote Now


Rate the Su’a Cravens trade:

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    (78 votes)
  • 37%
    (261 votes)
  • 40%
    (288 votes)
  • 7%
    (54 votes)
  • 3%
    (22 votes)
703 votes total Vote Now