Redskins make big cuts, create cap space, and send message to the NFL

Ron Rivera took over the Redskins top job less than 50 days ago, but in no short time, he overhauled the team’s front office and coaching staff.

On Friday, Rivera went to work on the roster. 

The team released veteran cornerback Josh Norman and wide receiver Paul Richardson. The moves create nearly $15 million in cap space, but also deliver two distinct messages. 

The first came from the Norman release, and it was obvious. Norman’s play did not validate his excessive salary, particularly in a bad 2019 season, and it was time for both sides to move on. In four seasons in Washington, Norman was largely misused in man coverage when he excels playing zone, but at this point, none of that mattered. 

It was time for Norman’s bloated salary off the books, and Rivera made the move that demanded to be made. 

In Richardson’s case, the decision wasn’t entirely driven by money. Sure, it’s nice for the Redskins to clear $2 million in cap space by cutting the oft-injured wideout, but that’s not enough money to cut a player. Richardson got released because he missed 15 games in two years and accounted for only 507 receiving yards despite being paid like a WR1. 

The decision to cut Richardson was about a lack of production, and more importantly, that the new regime does not need to try to fix previous mistakes. 

Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen signed Richardson to a five-year, $40 million deal two years ago. They had to make it work, and when it was clear that it wasn’t working, they had to try some more, results be damned. 

Rivera doesn’t have to take on any bad contracts or mishandled signings of the Allen era. He gets to start fresh, even when it means taking a $6 million cap hit in the case of Richardson. 

There will be more cuts – Jordan Reed seems likely to be at the top of the list. There is some question on how that will happen due to Reed’s medical concerns, and perhaps the team will reach an injury settlement with the tight end. 

Other players bring questions about salaries, and fans would be wise to expect the unexpected when it comes to more changes on the roster.

Rivera is beholden to no one, and as much as Washington owner Dan Snyder has influence, consider that Allen and longtime trainer Larry Hess got fired last month despite strong relationships with Snyder. 

There is another message at play here: Expect the Redskins to be aggressive in free agency. 

The team desperately needs cornerbacks now, and that will be a target. Tight end too. 

When the new NFL year opens in mid-March, Washington could have more than $75 million in cap space. That gives the team options. 

Whatever Washington’s reputation was around the NFL under Allen, and it wasn’t great, those days are over. By releasing Norman and Richardson now, Rivera did both guys a service by getting a leg up on the free-agent market. That wasn’t always the case before. Think back to last season when it was obvious the Redskins were going to release linebacker Zach Brown. Did they help him out and grant an early release? Nope. 

Things are different in Ashburn. Josh Norman is gone, Paul Richardson is gone. Plenty of other guys too. 

It’s not personal, it’s just business, and Rivera is wasting no time getting to work. 

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Redskins make big cuts, create cap space, and send message to the NFL originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington