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Grading the Redskins free agent contracts

How did the front office do?

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In the last couple of day, the contract details for some of the Redskins’ most recent free agent signings or re-signings have become public, though we’re still waiting on details for the Dominique Rodgers-Cromarie deal, and I haven’t seen confirmation yet that the Brian Quick contract is the vet min deal that I think it is.

I thought I’d take a moment to look at the contract details for 5 free agents signed or re-signed this month and grade them. I will leave B Quick & DRC for another day.

I plan to consider the Redskins roster needs, the player’s history and other such factors in my grade, but this is primarily a look at the contract, and how it fits with the Redskins roster and salary cap situation.

Byron Marshall

NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Byron Marshall was signed from the Eagles Practice Squad in 2017 when injuries cut deep into the Redskins running back position. He returned to the Redskins in 2018, but spent most of the season (early Sept to mid-Nov) on IR.

Eventually, the roster numbers forced a decision. As NBC Sports put it in a December article, “it was Bibbs against Marshall”. Marshall won; Bibbs lost, was cut by the Redskins and signed by the Green Bay Packers.

The Redskins signed Marshall off the Eagles practice squad in November 2017. He dressed in four games, rushing nine times for 32 yards and adding six catches for 36 yards, before a hamstring injury landed Marshall on the injured reserve, ending his season.

With Marshall done, the team then signed Bibbs in December from the Denver practice squad. In three games, he piled up more than 200 total yards and a touchdown.

Fast forward to training camp 2018, and it was clear Marshall was ahead of Bibbs on the depth chart. Marshall looked good too in the early going, before a knee injury landed him on the injured reserve list to start the season.

That created more opportunity for Bibbs, and he played well, especially for a long stretch while Thompson missed time with a rib injury.

In 10 games this season, Bibbs rushed 20 times for 101 yards and three TDs. He also added another 13 catches for 102 yards and another TD. That’s good for a 6.1 yards-per-touch average.

The Redskins used one of their two injured reserve return designations on Marshall, and his first game back came against Houston in Week 10. In that game he had two carries for five yards, and more infamously, Marshall was the running back on the play when Alex Smith suffered a season-ending broken leg.

In four games since he’s returned, Marshall has four catches for 30 yards and three carries for nine yards. He also returned two kickoffs in Jacksonville, averaging 15 yards-per-return.

The stats don’t really matter much now, as Marshall is on the team and Bibbs is in Green Bay.

Gruden picked the guy he believes has the higher upside, and if he can stay healthy, maybe Marshall will prove his coach right.

I was puzzled and stunned when the Redskins activated Marshall and let Bibbs go. I thought it was the wrong decision at the time, and I haven’t changed my mind.

This season, Marshall was a 25-year-old Exclusive Rights Free Agent; the Redskins tendered him, he accepted, and he will be in training camp on a league minimum contract valued at $720,000.

Contract details per OTC:

Okay, look.

This is a league minimum deal, which means no guaranteed money, for a player who has less than 200 total yards from scrimmage and no touchdowns in his career.

This is the very definition of a camp-body move. There’s no way that Byron Marshall is knocking Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson off the roster, and we haven’t even seen the draft yet.

The only problem I have with this contract is that it isn’t Kapri Bibbs, who was clearly the better player.

Grade: Solid C - This is a Hippocratic Oath contract (“first, do no harm”). Signing Marshall doesn’t hurt the team in any way — there’s nothing wrong here, but nothing to distinguish it positively either. I’d give it a “B” if it was for Kapri Bibbs.

Landon Collins

Chicago Bears v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

There are a lot of criticisms of this deal.

Some say the Redskins paid too much

There were three top safeties signed in the first hours of Free Agency last week:

All three players were paid virtually the same Average Per Year.

The key difference was in the length of the contracts, which ranged between three and six years.

Landon Collins got the largest contract at $84m, and the longest term at 6 years, but he is the youngest player at 25 years of age. To put his age in context, he is a year younger than Josh Doctson.

While the APY for the three players is nearly identical, one key measure of the value of a contract is the percentage of cap space it is expected to use. Starting with the 2019 cap of $188.2m, I inflated that number by 6% annually through 2024 to get the final column in the chart above.

Looked at this way, Landon Collins is the cheapest contract of the three at ‘just’ 6.4% of expected cap space, while Honey Badger is the costliest, at an estimated 7% of expected salary cap.

From OverTheCap

When you consider the cap hits from the Rashad Jones 2017 contract, you can see that the cap hits in the Landon Collins contract (which max out at $17.2m in both ‘21 and ‘23) are not really blazing new ground. The Dolphins plowed the furrow two years ago with these cap hit numbers for Jones:

  • 2019 $17.16m
  • 2020 $15.6m
  • 2021 $14.55m

I’m not arguing that the Landon Collins contract is cheap, but I am ready to argue that it’s in the range that top-tier safeties are getting in 2019.

Two years ago, when Garcon and Jackson left the team, many fans were suggesting that their market values were around $8-9m per season. Each of them signed for over $11m per season.

Last year the free agent safety market was sluggish; this season it was brisk. Three players got paid in a season that redefines the top of the safety market.

If you’re interested in more discussion of the Landon Collins contract, you may want to click here

What did the Redskins get for their money?

I’ll let you guys argue over Collins’ coverage skills and relative value. He is certainly a talented player; he is one of the youngest free agents in the market, and if you’re only objection to the deal is, “Why would Dave Gettleman let him go?” then you need some updated material.

The Redskins stabilized a roster position that was virtually empty two weeks ago. They’ve gotten a skilled player, a leader, and a guy who should be able to play out at least 5 years of his contract, giving the Redskins ongoing stability for a unit that has seen very little aside from turbulence since the murder of Sean Taylor.

The brilliant part here is in the contract construction, which is a work of art. The ‘Skins have added a young, talented safety at an average of $14m per year in a season where the Alex Smith contract looked like it would cripple their ability to add this kind of long-term talent to the team. Eric Schaffer earned his invitation to the annual Christmas party with his work on this deal.

I hear you — fans will be crying the blues about the cap hit when he’s on the books for $17m per year in 2023, but the alternative was to pass on a really good young defensive player with an all-pro and pro-bowl resume who wanted to come and play in Washington.

I’m a fan of the way the front office got this done. This guy is a real football player in the early prime of his career, who can provide the backbone to the defense for half a decade to come.

Overall Grade: B+ - the Redskins fixed a lot with this move, but it was expensive

Adrian Peterson

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Everyone knows what happened last year.

I think Redskins fans almost universally wanted to bring AD back this year; partly as a ‘thank you’ for last season, partly as both mentor to and insurance for Derrius Guice, and partly because we remember the Diesel, John Riggins, and what he did at the same age.

The question was always gonna be: How much will it cost?

We just found out the answer, and it is: “Not much”.

The Twitter numbers are 2 years, $8m, but when we look at the details provided by OverTheCap, it’s a different story:

Yes, if Peterson hits all his incentives, he can earn $8m in 2 years — but if he hits all those incentives, I imagine we’ll all be thrilled to see him get paid.

If he plays the two years without hitting his incentives, he will count for $1.78m this season and $3m next year.

If he plays just 2019 with the Redskins, then he will make $2.5m for that single season.

Overall Grade: A+ - Bringing back Peterson on a contract with this much flexibility is a huge win and should take pressure off of the coaches, training staff, and Derrius Guice, and provide a touch more flexibility in the draft. This was a great re-signing.

Ereck Flowers

New York Giants v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Wow, I’m conflicted here.

Redskins fans, myself included, have been laughing at the Giants for years because they drafted Flowers 9th overall when the Redskins passed on Leonard Williams to take Brandon Scherff at #5. The G-men panicked and overdrafted Flowers because they had to do something about their offensive line.

Flowers was so bad that the Giants simply cut him in the middle of the 2018 season.

The Jaguars picked him up and he started for them, but — significantly — they didn’t want hm back.

The Redskins

Reports, primarily from John Keim, have indicated that the Redskins plan to use Flowers at guard, though it’s not yet clear whether he’s expected to start or simply backup.

If he’s expected to start at LG, then his $3.2m cap hit seems fine — maybe even a bargain.

If he’s expected to be a backup guard (remembering that he’s never played guard before) then he looks expensive.

If he’s an all-purpose backup (swing tackle and backup guard) then I would compare him to Ty Nsekhe, who had a $2.9m cap hit last year and say... could be better, could be worse.

The big question here isn’t the contract.

The question is ability.

Flowers has proven he can’t play OT in the NFL; the Redskins need to find out quickly whether he can play Guard. I’m not sure he can.

Overall Grade: D The Redskins have guaranteed $1.5 million to a guy with a low floor, and limited upside (at least in the short term), and done it for no real apparent reason other than a seemingly affordable one-year contract. This looks like a one-year band-aid deal, and with guaranteed money, as a band-aid it looks expensive — more expensive than Orlando Scandrick was last year. This contract also looks like it will cost the Redskins a potential 2020 compensatory draft pick. I don’t think signing Flowers will stop the Redskins from drafting a quality interior lineman in the draft, and I question how much they gained with this decision. If he doesn’t make the opening day 53-man roster, the ‘Skins will have flushed $1.5m of salary cap for a bit of low quality pre-draft OL insurance.

Zac Kerin

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

This is a RE-signing of an interior lineman who was one of the many anonymous guys to play some snaps for the Redskins in the second half of last season.

The 27-year-old provides depth for this offensive line, something the Redskins desperately need.

He played his college football at Toledo, and was selected to the All-MAC team three seasons in a row. He went undrafted in 2014 however, and signed with the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason. Kerin served as a backup, and played in just 13 games for Minnesota in two years. He was released by the Vikings prior to the 2017 season.

Here’s Kerin’s profile from

I actually paid attention to Kerin in the two late-season games he played for Washington last year and was fairly impressed. I had him in mind as a player who should be brought in to compete for a backup G position in training camp this year, and was glad to see the Tweet announcing his signing.

At the time of writing, no details for Kerin’s contract have been publicized, but I’d be dead shocked if he was signed on anything other than an absolute vet minimum deal.

Overall Grade: C+ This is a guy the coaches got a look at last year, so it’s encouraging that they want to bring him back for camp. I doubt he makes the 53, but this is the kind of player that fills out the 90-man preseason roster, has some experience and some potential, and should be given a chance to earn a job.

He may be playing in the AAF this time next year, but I think this is an appropriate signing for the Redskins.


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