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An attempt to dissect the Morgan Moses situation

Carolina Panthers v Washington Football Team Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

As we all know at this point, earlier in the week Washington announced its intention to allow Morgan Moses to seek a trade, and earlier today, apparently unable to find a trade partner, they released him.

This isn’t so much an attempt to explore the potential psychodynamics of why the team decided to part ways with Moses (e.g., he was good friends with Trent Williams; the team bristled at him asking for more guaranteed money; he didn’t want to have to compete for his starting role). Any - or all - of those could be true, but it would really just be scurrilous speculation to assert any of them at this point. For me, the economic incentives alone provide sufficient explanatory power for the move, and I’ll go into them a bit further below.

Moses Was Essentially a Free Agent

I had been thinking it to myself, and then OffSeasonOptimist articulated it perfectly in one of the Moses’ threads:

The economic mindset is that if you have a player with little to no dead money on his contract then each year the philosophy is to approach them like a free agent. If Moses was a free agent, would we pay him 7.5 million right now?

With no guaranteed money left on his contract in 2021 (just dead cap from the $1.9M signing bonus left), Moses was indeed, basically a free agent under the team’s control. I suspect that once they looked around and found that a starting left tackle, in Charles Leno, was costing them $5M (or less, we still haven’t seen the contract details), that they determined it wasn’t good value to be paying Moses $2.5M more than that at right tackle. And, I think that determination has been vindicated over the past week or so, as no one else seems interested in paying it either.

This is an incredibly sound way to evaluate players under contract, at or near the end of their guaranteed dollars, and in a year where the cap has taken 10% dip, it’s tough to be a player getting evaluated. At this point, Washington is paying Charles Leno and Cornelius Lucas, combined, what they are saving by releasing Moses ($7.5M).

A Trade Is a Zero Sum Game for the Team and Player

I haven’t seen it explicitly said, but I find it very difficult to imagine Washington didn’t try to shop Moses on the trade market before “letting him trying to find a trade partner himself.” To me, what that means is, the team received no interest given the current terms of Moses’ contract, and if he didn’t believe them, he was welcome to try for himself.

Of course, at this point, Moses found out what the team already had: No one is interested in paying $7.5M for an aging, though sturdy, right tackle, particularly if they have to give up a draft pick to do so. Any attempt to include draft capital in the trade would come directly out of the salary compensation Moses would be seeking, and my guess is the cost-benefit trade off - if there was even one on the table - of the salary Washington would have to eat in order to move Moses for a pick simply didn't make sense.

With his release, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moses end up taking a 1-year deal in the $3-4M range, in an attempt to bide his time until 2022.

So What Are the Options?

The options actually aren’t nearly as dire as some would have you believe, at a minimum, Washington has two starting caliber tackles in Leno and Lucas. They re-signed David Sharpe to a 1-year deal as tackle depth, and, of course, they drafted Sam Cosmi in the second round. They also have Saadhiq Charles with a year of conditioning under his belt as T/G depth, if they need it. It’s entirely possible that Cosmi and Charles could be the starting tackles in 2022, and/or that either Lucas or Leno is retained for a longer term. All of this is to say nothing of the additional tackles on the roster, like David Steinmetz and Rick Leonard.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, saving $7.5M is saving $7.5M, and that move is reason alone for Washington to have moved Moses.

Will that money be used to extend Jon Allen? That doesn’t seem right, since an Allen extension could easily be structured to save the team money in 2021. There are still a ton of solid free agents floating around out there, whose cost is dropping with each passing day. Perhaps they’re targeting one or two more depth signings, guys who could be brought in on 1-year deals and parlayed into comp pick capital next year.

In any case, this is a team that is going to need to be very frugal with its finances in the next couple of years if it wants to retain some of its young talent. Personally, I’d love to see these saving plowed back into extending a few guys, like Logan Thomas, Cornelius Lucas, and maybe even JD McKissic, before the season starts.

Poll

How do you feel about the release of Moses?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    I’m good with it.
    (1321 votes)
  • 36%
    I trust Ron, I guess.
    (1090 votes)
  • 14%
    I’m uncomfortable with it.
    (438 votes)
  • 4%
    I hate it.
    (137 votes)
2986 votes total Vote Now