The 5 Best Bargains on the Redskins Roster
The Washington Redskins are a team with a well-earned reputation for signing high-priced free agents that deliver precious little in return for those fat paychecks. What’s worse, since I don’t particularly care if Dan Snyder makes a lot of money from the Redskins or a helluva lot of money from the Redskins, is the amount of space some of these unproductive millionaires under the salary cap. The NFL salary cap is a zero-sum creature — what you give to one you must take from another. That makes it incredibly important that what you give to one isn’t wasted.
With that in mind, let’s look at the five biggest bargains on the Redskins roster for 2014, determined not by their salary or signing bonus, but by their salary cap hit in the upcoming season. We’ll go down the list in descending order, with number one being the biggest and best bargain on the team.
The rookie second round pick had an up and down season, starting out as a nickel back, but improving as the season went on and eventually playing about as much as veteran starters DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. He played better than Wilson by the end of the year and about as well as Hall by week 15 or so. Don’t get me wrong: Amerson is not an elite cornerback. At least, not yet. He probably never will be. But he has the makings of a solid NFL starting cornerback, with good size and a willingness to mix it up. He overcame most of his early struggles and while he needs to become far more consistent, he looks like a solid pick and someone the Skins should be able to rely on as at least a good #2 cornerback. If he can become that in 2014 — and I think he can — he’ll be a heck of a bargain at under 900K.
You’re thinking: How can a guy with the second-highest cap hit on the team [behind only LT Trent Williams] be a bargain? Well, consider that Garcon’s average salary per year is only 14th-highest at the wide receiver position, but he led the NFL with 113 receptions last season. Garcon out-produced some big-name players earning far more money than he does, such as Mike Wallace, Victor Cruz, Dwayne Bowe, Percy Harvin and Larry Fitzgerald. Garcon is one of the most expensive players on the team and when he signed his current contract there were many around the league who doubted he would ever earn it. After an injury-plagued first season in Washington, in which the Redskins went 9-1 with Garcon in the lineup, the wideout really came into his own in 2013. He was the team’s MVP and set the franchise record for receptions in a single season. Even a relatively expensive player like Garcon can be a bargain if he out-produces even more expensive players at his position.
You’re thinking — WHAT? He was terrible in 2013! How can he be a bargain in 2014? Well, wait just a second. His production declined sharply in 2013 from his historic and record-setting 2012 rookie season, but RG3 wasn’t terrible in 2013. His team was terrible and he couldn’t do much about it, but he still threw four more touchdowns  than interceptions  and had a passer rating of 82.2. That’s not a great rating, of course, but compare it to Matt Stafford of the Lions, who was healthy all season, had a better team around him and produced a passer rating of 84.2. Stafford’s 2014 cap hit is $15,820,000 — almost three times as much as Griffin’s. Or consider Eli Manning, who led the NFL with 27 interceptions in 2013 and produced a passer rating of 69.4. Manning’s cap hit is $20.4 million for 2014. Finally, look at Joe Flacco, who has a cap hit in 2014 of $14,800,000. In 2013 he threw three more interceptions  than touchdowns  and put up a passer rating of 73.1.
What’s more, I agree with former Redskins QB coach Matt LaFleur, who recently told ESPN’s John Keim: “Everybody will see a big jump in his game and he’ll look more like he did in Year 1 than in Year 2.” That sounds right to me. With a full offseason to train and learn – something he has already begun – Griffin should make a big leap back into the elite in this coming season. His combination of athleticism, smarts and ferocious work ethic, combined with a finally healthy body, should make Griffin one of the great bargains at this position in 2014. As big a bargain as Russell Wilson, who was drafted the same year, but more than two rounds later? Probably not. But a good bargain nonetheless.
You probably thought Jordan Reed had a good rookie year. You’re right. He caught 45 passes for 499 yards and 3 TD in only nine games. Over a 16-game season that works out to 80 catches for 887 yards. Not bad for a third round draft pick who was recruited to play quarterback. Apart from setting franchise records in receiving for a rookie tight end, Reed blocked far better than anyone expected and quickly became RG3′s second-favorite target. Indeed, when Reed went out of the lineup for the final six games of the season the drop off in the passing game efficiency was immediate and obvious. Out of the 64 tight ends rated by Pro Football Focus, Reed came in at five. That’s right, the fifth-best tight end in the NFL in 2013, ahead of such luminaries as Vernon Davis and Brent Celek and far, far ahead of alleged stars like Tyler Eifert and Jordan Cameron. Ahead of Reed were Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and Ben Hartsock, a 33-year-old free agent blocking tight end who pretty much never catches passes. Graham is a free agent about to be paid more than anyone at the tight end position in NFL history. Gronkowski has a 2014 cap hit of $5,400,000 — a bargain, but only if he can get healthy and start playing football again. Witten has a 2014 cap number of $8,412,000, also probably a bargain, but not by much on the severely cap-strapped Cowboys. Reed will earn about $642K and, if healthy, likely be the All Pro he would have been in 2013 had he played more. Reed is not only a great bargain, he’s arguably the biggest bargain at his position in the NFL.
The fourth leading rusher in the NFL, Morris churned out 1275 yards on a 4.6 yards average behind a bad offensive line. He doesn’t just move the sticks, he’s also a big hitter, with 10 runs of at least 20 yards, most in the NFL. Morris, a 6th round pick in 2012, is the straw that stirs the drink for Washington’s offense. When Morris is finding holes — which is pretty much every time there are holes to find — the Redskins’ offense is very difficult to stop. Perfectly made for the zone blocking scheme of the Shanahans, he should be equally comfortable in the hybrid blocking scheme of Jay Gruden. Washington will probably completely revamp its offensive line, with possibly as many as four new starters, and that would be good news for Morris [and RG3]. The only running backs in the same production level as Morris – Lesean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Jamal Charles and Matt Forte – all earn a lot more than Morris. You really can’t spend a better $600K than the Redskins will spend on Morris in 2014.