Redskins are the youngest they've ever been in Eric Schaffer's 16 years

Chris Lingebach
September 28, 2018 - 5:17 pm

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At the Redskins pause for the bye week, it's a good time to reflect on how they got to 2-1.

Longtime front office executive Eric Schaffer – formally known as Senior VP of Football Operations/General Counsel – says in his 16 years in the organization, this is "the youngest team we've ever had."

Schaffer called into Grant & Danny on Tuesday and was asked if the organization is confident it can stick it to the naysayers this season. He preached cautious optimism.

"I wouldn't crown us just yet," Schaffer said. "As Dennis Green might say. We're 2-1. We'd like to be 3-0 going into the bye, but 2-1 is okay. I think we do feel good about our team."

"What's probably not talked about is kind of the youth of our team," he said. "I've been here 16 years and I track these kind of things, and this is the youngest team we've ever had, this is the youngest defense we've ever had, these are the youngest starting and backup defensive players and it really starts with the young defensive line that we have.

"Over the last two years, I think we have 19 homegrown players on our roster, so we feel good about the youth and feel good about our coaching staff that are going to work to develop those players and make them even better."

The Redskins are believed to have reserved around $9.8 million in cap space entering the 2018 season. That's a lot of cash, which some argue could have been allocated to free agents. But the organization has come a long way from its free-spending early years of Dan Snyder's ownership. This generation of the club has been smart with its money and quietly built through the draft, stockpiling young, controllable talent – all the things Redskins fans used to covet about marquee organizations like the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

"If you think about it, you've got 53 players on the roster," said Schaffer. "How many of those players are on their rookie deals?"

"So, my thought as always a general of thumb," he continued, "if you have half or more than half of your players on their rookie contract – regardless of position – then that gives you an opportunity to go out and sign guys like Paul Richardson in free agency and most importantly be able to re-sign our own players that we've drafted and developed. You know, guys like Trent (Williams) and Morgan (Moses), and guys like Brandon Scherff have this year and one more left. So those are important for us to do that. But you always gotta be mindful of sort of the 53 and how many are on their rookie deals."

Spending smartly also allows for the flexibility to pull off a sign-and-trade when an opportunity springs up, as the Redskins did for Alex Smith.

"The quarterback is obviously, generally the higher-paid players in the league," Schaffer said. "And we chose to trade for and pay Alex Smith."

Another benefit of reserving so much cap space? Rolling the money over for when you need it most.

"The benefit, I think if you look at probably the highest-spending teams the last couple years," Schaffer said, "whether it was teams like Green Bay and Chicago signed all those free agents, and Jacksonville. So if the salary cap is $177 million, those teams might have over $200 million, because they've rolled money over the past couple years.

"I just always think that you want to pay a player accordingly for what you anticipate to get from that player. So, in other words, just because you have money under your salary cap doesn't mean that, for a B player, you're paying him A money, or for a C player, you're paying him B money. You want to pay him accordingly to his role that you anticipate for the team. And that's why I always talk about the three prongs of a front office, whether it's the scouting, the coaching and the money, all have to be aligned so you don't make those mistakes."

This is, in effect, the football version of money ball, being efficient with finances while allowing your own scouting and knowledge of players to inform future roster decisions.

Calling upon the cornerback situation, Paulsen noted, instead of going out and signing a pricey veteran corner in the offseason, the Redskins trusted the growth of Quinton Dunbar and second-year corner Fabian Moreau.

Asked for the benefit to reserving that money as opposed to spending it for the insurance a veteran corner, Schaffer said the benefit is, again, in having more money to roll over.

"When we look at our roster, we don't just look at this year, we look at two, three years down the road," he said. "Because we do have players that we know they're going to be coming up and we don't want to let them out the building. So you can't just think about one year, you gotta think about the future. Like we signed Orlando Scandrick, for example, and Fabian Moreau just beat him out.

"Some of our younger guys like (Greg) Stroman and Danny Johnson, which are incredible surprises. And you have to give our scouting department the credit for that, because if you're getting good value out of those players on their rookie deals, that leaves you an opportunity to go out and get other players. And that gives us the luxury of having a quarterback like Alex Smith, who obviously we feel great about."

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