SNIDER: Cap space isn't Washington's friend

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The Washington Football Team has the NFL's fifth most salary cap room, yet it will be limited pursuing major free agents thanks to the pandemic.

Grabbing Chicago receiver Allen Robinson or Tampa Bay receiver Chris Godwin to twin up with Terry McLaurin? Make amends with left tackle Trent Williams now that president Bruce Allen is gone? Add edge rusher J.J. Watt? All of these moves are truly fantasy ball cause money is actually tight around the NFL for once with some teams forced to release veterans.

The cap is expected to fall from $198 million to $180 million when free agency begins on March 17. That’s a reaction to virtually no attendance last season thanks to COVID restrictions. The $180 million could rise some if TV negotiations finish soon, but not greatly.

Washington must divide nearly $40 million in cap space. First up is guard Brandon Scherff, who picked a great time to make All Pro last season. The 2015 first-rounder probably gets $16 million per season, dropping Washington to $24 million.

Oh wait, the team saves $14.7 million by cutting quarterback Alex Smith. The problem is so far it hasn't. Oh, there are a multitude of trade rumors and draft talk, so it's reasonable to expect Smith leaves or redoes his contract to a lower cap number. But, the next passer could easily gobble up Smith's savings.

As much as safety Landon Collins' injury last season followed by successor Kamren Curl's emergence makes the former vulnerable, Washington would lose money by cutting Collins. He's paid $16.9 million, but would be $18.8 million in dead cap space.

Keeping Scherff is Washington's major free agent move. It's not sexy, but better than signing a free agent guard. Best to keep your own players.

Austerity aside, Washington will surely make a move on a free agent receiver. It just won't be some rocking $100 million deal. They might look for linebackers, too. Again, solid players at reasonable prices.

There's nothing wrong with that. Look at the bargains last season, like running back J.D. McKissic ($3.2 million over two years) and tight end Logan Thomas ($6.1 million over two years.) They combined for 152 catches. This team doesn't make the playoffs without them.

We're getting the first glimpse at the new front office after the recent hiring of general manager Martin Mayhew and vice president of player personnel Marty Hurney. Along with coach Ron Rivera, they'll shape this roster. My hunch is they'll go conservative on the cap.

It's nice to have cap space, but it's not endless for Washington. Smart money will make the difference rather than owner Dan Snyder's past of throwing bundles of cash like confetti on New Year's Eve.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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