Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 13, 27 days before the start of the league year.
Free agent targets
We’re getting close to the start of free agency and although the Redskins are pressed up against the salary cap they will still be able to make a few free agent moves. Pro Football Focus came up with a few smart free agent suggestions for the Redskins for us to ponder.
Safety Chris Clemons (Dolphins): Free safety is the no-brainer top need for the Redskins this year and Clemons comes highly recommended by the folks at PFF. He will be 28 early next season, and he had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and 69 tackles while starting all 16 games for the Dolphins. One issue in the Redskins landing him could be that the Dolphins have $35 million in cap space and if they want him back they could easily top any offer the Redskins could make. Still, a three-year deal in the $2.5-$3 million per year range is reasonable for Clemons. That could be very affordable for the Redskins.
Offensive tackle Ryan Harris (Texans): There have been a few times since Mike Shanahan has been in Washington that Harris, who Shanahan drafted in Denver in the third round in 2007, has been available when it looked like the Redskins had a need at tackle. But there hasn’t seemed to be any mutual interest. Harris has struggled with injuries; he missed the 2011 season with a herniated disc. But he played well in a part-time role in Houston’s zone-blocking scheme last year and now might be the time for a Harris-Shanahan reunion. The minimum salary for his experience is $715,000; it probably wouldn’t take much more than that to get Harris, who turns 28 next month, into the fold.
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin (Bills): When the Bills drafted McKelvin 11th overall in 2008, they certainly didn’t envision him as a part-time player but that is what he has been. An assortment of injuries hasn’t helped as McKelvin has missed time with rib and groin injuries in recent seasons. But PFF likes what he has done when he’s been in there and sometimes a change of scenery is what a 27-year-old needs. Nickel back Cedric Griffin cost the Redskins $2 million last year and McKelvin could be had for about the same.
Star QB play at a reduced rate
I’ve been looking at some salary cap numbers for the Redskins and the other teams around the NFC East as we get ready for free agency, which is less than a month away now. And one thing that struck me is that the Redskins have a huge financial advantage over their division foes, one that will last at least two more years.
Look at the salary cap numbers for the quarterbacks in the division:
Tony Romo: $16.82 million
Eli Manning: $20.85 million
Michael Vick: $6.879 million
Robert Griffin III: $4.79 million
The Eagles had to cut Vick’s pay and move some money around to reduce his cap number from $16.9 million. But they are getting questionable quality for their quarterback dollars.
Romo’s contract eats up 14.4 percent of the cap for the Cowboys, who are working with a $5 million cap penalty this year. The Giants have their full cap available but Manning’s number is consuming 17.2 percent of their cap dollars.
Washington is dealing with an $18 million cap penalty but Griffin still accounts for only 4.6 percent of the cap. Next year, assuming the cap stays flat and John Mara doesn’t dream up another penalty for breaking rules that didn’t exist, Griffin’s cap number goes up to $5.76 million and his percentage of the cap will stay at the same 4.6 percent. Griffin’s rookie deal goes through 2015.
That gives the Redskins a window where they are paying a relatively small amount at the quarterback position that will give them more money to spend at other positions.
In the latter part of this decade, Griffin’s salary is likely to rise to the level of those of Romo and Manning. In the meantime, the Redskins will have an opportunity.
In case you missed it
Days until: Start of league year 27; OTA’s start 91; NFL Kickoff Sunday 207