Looking at veteran free agency
I plan to spend much of the next 5 weeks taking a look at veteran free agents for 2019 with help from the Top-50 list from NFL Trade Rumors; the plan is to review positions of need on the Redskins roster, one position per article, over the course of last week and this, and then to revisit the position lists as we get closer to the start of the new league year.
Veteran free agent lists will be highly fluid once the Super Bowl has finished, and teams start to talk to their own players. Many of the top free agents will be re-signed by their teams during, or in the week following, the Scouting Combine, which will be held from 26 February to 4 March.
I plan to revisit lists of key available free agents again ahead of the beginning of free agency when it becomes clearer which players have decided to stay with their current teams, and which ones seem committed to testing their value in the open marketplace. Consider this a ‘warm up’ as we look at the very top tier - a selection of positions from a top-50 list. This is just the opening act.
Free Agent Frenzy starts 13 March
The league year ends at 4:00 p.m. ET, on 13 March, which is when teams are free to sign veteran free agents to new contracts. There is a two-day ‘legal tampering period’ prior to the end of the league year when players’ agents are allowed to talk to any team in the league to arrange contracts on behalf of their clients.
According to OverTheCap, the Redskins are projected to have $21.56m in cap space available this off-season. Using some ‘rule-of-thumb’ numbers, the team probably needs to allow about $2.6m for draft picks, and keep another $5m or so available to sign players as injuries occur during the season.
That would leave around $14m in available 2019 cap space to spend on veteran free agents in the upcoming off-season.
Remember that the first year of most NFL contracts typically has the lowest cap hit, so the Redskins would be able to sign one or more players with a cumulative APY that is greater than the available 2019 cap space due to the accrual accounting methods used in accounting for the salary cap.
To put a fine point on that, because the APY numbers are average numbers for the life of the contract, while the 2019 cap hits generally represent the lowest year of those contracts, it might be possible for the Redskins to, say, sign four veteran free agents whose APYs are $7m, 5m, $4.5m and $4m (a total of $20.5m) even though they have only around $14m available for 2019.
Of course, the team can clear space by cutting or trading players or ‘create’ space by re-structuring contracts in an effort to have more money available for free agency in 2019 and beyond.
Potential cap casualties
Here are the top-ten Redskins players who would have a significant effect on salary cap:
- Alex Smith - Restructure of contract could reduce 2019 cap hit by an estimated $9m by shifting cap dollars to the remaining 3 years of the contract. This is not a cap savings, but a mere deferral to allow more flexibility in roster construction in the short term. This idea was discussed in some detail in an article published in early December.
- Trent Williams - Trading Williams could reduce the 2019 cap hit by $9.34m, with and additional $12.75m reduction in 2020.
- Josh Norman - Trading Norman could reduce the 2019 cap hit by $8.5m, with an additional $12.5m reduction in 2020.
- Ryan Kerrigan - Trading Kerrigan could reduce the 2019 cap hit by $10.75m, with an additional $11.75m reduction in 2020.
- Jordan Reed - Cutting or Trading Jordan Reed could reduce the 2019 cap hit by $6.07m, with an additional $17.5m reduction in the remaining years of his contract (‘20 & ‘21). Alternatively, renegotiating Reed’s contract could probably create an estimated savings of $2m to $3m per season, while keeping Reed on the roster.
- Zach Brown - Cutting or Trading Zach Brown could reduce the 2019 cap hit by $5.75m, with an additional $8m reduction in 2020.
- Vernon Davis - Cutting Vernon Davis would save reduce the 2019 cap hit by $5m.
- Stacy McGee - Cutting or Trading Stacy McGee would reduce the 2019 cap hit by $2.275m, with an additional $10.5m reduction in the remaining years of his contract (‘20 & ‘21). With a 2019 salary & roster bonus of just $4m, 3 years remaining and no guaranteed money, it’s not crazy to think that the Redskins might be able to trade McGee for a 6th or 7th round draft pick, or swapping picks to move higher in the draft order.
- Chris Thompson - Cutting or Trading Chris Thompson would reduce the 2019 cap hit by $3m.
- Mason Foster - Cutting Mason Foster would reduce the 2019 cap hit by $2m.
As you can see, the Redskins have a wide range of options available for attacking the salary cap and roster.
- They could simply stand pat on the existing roster and focus the draft and limited free agency;
- they could make selected salary cap moves, giving them sufficient room to make one or two key signings, or
- they could really clear out the roster, load up on draft capital and perform a complete roster teardown & re-build over the next two off-seasons.
The Redskins have a very large number of players under contract currently, as they ended the year with 24 players on IR, one player on Reserve/NFI, and one on the Commissioner’s exempt list in addition to the regular roster, practice squad players and futures contracts.
Still, the team will have holes in the roster, partly due to injury, partly due to expiring contracts, and partly due to the need to upgrade positions.
The front office expects to have 8 draft picks April in addition to the cap space available to sign veteran free agents starting 13 March.
Allotment of compensatory draft picks should be announced on 22 February.
Upcoming Redskins veteran free agents
The team can bolster the roster in a number of ways:
- Re-signing its own free agents
- trading for veteran players
- Drafting player in Nashville from 25-27 April (The Redskins will probably have 8 draft picks, the first being 15th overall; compensatory pick allocations should be announced on 22 February)
- Signing veteran free agents, starting from 13 March
- Signing undrafted college free agents, starting the moment the draft ends on 27 April
Today’s article will focus solely on veteran interior offensive linemen, and today I plan to only look at the Centers and Guards that appear on the Top-50 veteran free agents list published last week by NFL Trade Rumors.
I’ve scanned the fifty names and found 4 interior linemen on the NFLTR list
#20 Matt Paradis, Center, Denver, 29 years old
Prior to breaking his leg and landing the Injured Reserve, Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis was playing at extremely high level. He anchored one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the NFL and was far from a liability in pass protection. If healthy, the 29-year-old Paradis can fill in for any offensive line as a key contributing starter in 2019 and beyond.
Paradis isn’t the long-term, blockbuster free agent addition many teams seek out in free agency, but he offers value to an already competitive NFL team in need of an upgrade at center.
The Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for a starting center; what they need is a starting left guard and at least one dependable backup — assuming Brandon Scherff is ready to play at the start of the ‘19 season (no sure thing) and that Ari Kuandjio isn’t the answer to the question: where are the Redskins gonna find a guy to start next to Trent Williams.
Signing a Center could mean moving Chase Roullier back to Guard, though a number of analysts have expressed the opinion that he has played better at Center for the Redskins.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of bringing a guy like Paradis into camp and letting him compete with Roullier for the starting center job. Roullier was a 6th round pick and has two (non-guaranteed) years left on his contract. He could be useful as the primary backup on the interior OL if the Redskins could upgrade at Center.
Paradis was originally drafted by the Broncos in 2014, but was beaten out for a roster spot by ex-Redskin Will Montgomery. He spent some time on the practice squad that season, but Kubiak named Paradis the starter for the 2015 season. He was ranked as the best center in the NFL by ProFootballFocus that season, and picked up a super bowl ring in the process.
He went on to start every game in ‘16, ‘17 and ‘18, up until he broke his leg in Week 9.
Assuming the Redskins were interested in a player like Paradis, how much would it cost to sign him?
That’s a question 247 Sports tried to answer not long ago.
Salaries for interior offensive linemen (guards and centers) were once cheaper than those of left tackles, but that is starting to change.
Here are the top 10 average-per-year salaries for offensive guards.
Zack Martin - $14M
Andrew Norwell - $13.3M
Kevin Zeitler - $12M
Kelechi Osemele - $11.7M
Trai Turner - $11.25M
Gabe Jackson - $11M
David DeCastro - $10M
Kyle Long - $10M
Joel Bitonio - $10M
T.J. Lang - $9.5M
You will notice that nine guards are averaging at least $10M per year and that the bulk of them signed their extensions in recent seasons.
look at what the highest-paid centers make per year.
Ryan Jensen - $10.5M
Brandon Linder - $10.3M
Weston Richburg - $9.5M
Travis Frederick - $9.4M
Alex Mack - $9M
Justin Britt - $9M
Rodney Hudson - $8.9M
Maurkice Pouncey - $8.8M
Corey Linsley - $8.5M
Ryan Kalil - $8.375M
The higher-paid centers are those who received their extensions most recently. As you can see, centers are demanding bigger contracts as much as guards are.
Therefore, Paradis could easily ask for $10M per year right now.
An independent source, then, projects that a free agent starting Center like Paradis can command $10m per year, and a high-quality starting Guard even more.
By contrast, Chase Roullier has cap hits of just over $681,000 and $771,000 in 2019 and 2020.
I think it would take an awful lot of belief in Paradis to get the Redskins to commit the extra $9m+ to move Chase Roullier — the only Redskins lineman who didn’t miss time in 2018 — out of his current position as starting Center.
The team seems much more likely to bring in a natural guard via draft or free agency.
#24 Rodger Saffold, Guard, LA Rams, 31 years old
Saffold will earn $7.95m in 2018, the final year of a 5-year contract he signed in 2014, when salaries for interior offensive linemen were much lower than they are currently. There’s a very good chance that the 31-year-old Saffold, who just played in the NFC conference championship game, will be able to command $10m or more per season in the current free agency climate of the NFL.
The 6’5”, 323 pound lineman out of Indiana has played his entire career with the Rams after being drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft.
The Rams offensive line is talented, but it is also “old” by NFL standards with 3 out of 5 starters who will be over 30 years old by the start of the ‘19 season:
- Andrew Whitworth, 37 y.o.
- Roger Saffold, 30 y.o.
- John Sullivan, 33 y.o.
- Austin Blythe, 26 y.o.
- Rob Haverstein, 26 y.o.
Both Whitworth and Sullivan will be free agents following the 2019 season, so the Rams have a lot of motivation to get younger at Saffold’s position rather than paying him to come back for another year.
31 isn’t particularly old for a good interior lineman, so Saffold could find himself with a strong market in free agency, and signing him for, say, a 3-year contract with the Redskins could fit neatly with the current mix of youth and experience that the Redskins have on their offensive line.
There’s an argument to be made that Saffold is exactly the player the Redskins need to fix what ails them, and there’s a better than even chance that the Rams, who aren’t hurting for 2019 cap space (currently projected at $36.4m), but who also have about a half-dozen significant free agents in 2019, may let Saffold walk and look to the draft or free agency for a younger, cheaper replacement.
Still, though, Saffold won’t be cheap, and he isn’t getting any younger.
#39 Mark Glowinski, Guard, Indianapolis, 27 years old
Although he was projected as the left guard in the Colts offense for 2018, Glowinski doing well at right guard should come as no surprise. He played collegiately at West Virginia and earned All-Big 12 honors at right guard following his senior season in 2014. He was then selected in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
Glowinski started 19-of-36 games in his first three years in Seattle — playing 1,233 snaps at left guard and 222 at right guard, according to Pro Football Focus — before being waived near the end of the 2017 season. The Colts would scoop him up just two days later.
Braden Smith — drafted to be the Colts’ right guard of the future — was needed to fill in for Good at right tackle early in the season, and Smith did such a nice job that he stayed in that position. Meanwhile, right guard Matt Slauson was lost for the season with a back injury following that same game. Rather than interrupt Smith’s momentum, Glowinski was inserted into Slauson’s spot and built some momentum of his own.
In Glowinski’s first start with the Colts of 2018, the Colts’ line kept pressure away from quarterback Andrew Luck, as he was sacked zero times. The run game also averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
The man Glowinski has replaced, Slauson later went on injured reserve, and Glowinski finished the Colts playoff season as the starter on an offensive line that performed very well.
With Braden Smith, drafted in the second round last year, ahead of Glowinski on the depth chart for 2019, the 27-year-old free agent might well go looking elsewhere for an opportunity to start.
He has played both left and right guard for the Seahawks and Colts, so he has the type of flexibility that would make him valuable to the Redskins, who may not be able to rely on Scherff’s health early in the ‘19 season, and need a reliable player to plug in between Chase Roullier and Trent Williams.
I don’t expect Glowinski to be paid as a top-tier guard in 2019. He had an incentive-laden one-year contract for $1.9m in 2018. Of course, he is likely to be looking for a bigger payday in free agency this off-season, but should be available on a very “affordable” contract.
Glowinski could be exactly what the Redskins need in 2019 — a veteran guard capable of playing on the right or the left, with playoff experience and a contract that won’t break the bank.
Will Mark Glowinski be in burgundy & gold in 2019?
#45 Mitch Morse, Center, Kansas City, 27 years old
Morse is the starting Center for the Chiefs, and is backed up by Austin Reiter. The 6’5”, 305 pound center out of Missouri was a 2nd round draft pick (49th overall) of the Chiefs in 2015 and has started every one of the 49 games he has played in his 4 year career, including Sunday’s AFC title game.
I can see no reason whatsoever that the Chiefs would fail to re-sign him, but if they did let him walk, then I would suggest that the Redskins would be unlikely to sign him for the same reasons that they would be unlikely to sign Matt Paradis.
I think the Skins will be looking for a guard and backup center, in hopes of leaving Roullier in place, based on his consistency and the fact that he has two seasons left on his rookie contract. Paying free agent dollars to bring in a center to replace Roullier doesn’t seem to be good roster or cap management. After all, Roullier has been the most consistent player in a damaged OL group for the past two seasons, and I suspect that the Redskins coaches will want to keep him in place and focus on improving the guard position on the theory that they have enough roster holes to plug without upsetting the Roullier apple cart, which was pretty productive and reliable for them in 2018.
How should the Redskins address the interior offensive line in the 2019 offseason?
This poll is closed
Draft at least one quality interior OL who can play guard by the end of the 3rd round (the ‘Skins have no 4th round pick remaining)
Rely primarily on free agency to plug holes and improve the depth of the OL
With Arie Kouandjio returning from injury, the Redskins have five starters and should focus on building depth with some Saturday draft picks.
Considering age, likely contract demands, on-field performance, off-field issues, etc, which of the 4 profiled players would you want the Redskins front office to prioritize if they pursued a UFA interior offensive lineman this off season?
This poll is closed