RUSSELL: Reuben Foster is a good football fit

Chris Russell
November 28, 2018 - 11:02 am
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The Washington Redskins took a massive gamble on Tuesday afternoon by claiming the uber-talent Reuben Foster.

Let me be clear, I would never, never, ever sign this player if it were my choice. I don't care how talented he is or how much Jay Gruden loved him (and probably still does).

The nature of a win-at-almost-all-costs job forces you to take risks and somewhat educated gambles.

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Make no mistake, that's what the Redskins are doing here. They are certainly not any smarter than the 31 other NFL teams. That's for damn sure. They are just willing to take a chance and deal with a public relations black eye, a lot of angst and potentially sleepless nights for team security officials.

From a football perspective, I get it. It's a need now and in the future and makes perfect sense, even if some of the top Redskins officials were split on the decision to bring in the former first-round pick.

Via a press release, the Redskins are trumpeting their core values and expectations, along with the nurturing support of Foster's former Alabama teammates that litter the current roster.

That's sweet and makes for a wonderful storyline but here's the truth: This is a needed and very good football move if Foster can somehow act like a normal, reasonable human being instead of the monster that he appears to be.

Foster is more talented than Mason Foster and he's also more athletic, and probably better instinctively than Zach Brown.

That might hurt someone's feelings, but that's the hidden truth.

The Redskins starting inside linebackers are not good enough. Now, and certainly not in any reasonable mind next year.

That's the truth. If it weren't, the Redskins would never even think about playing with the Reuben Foster inferno.

Brown is ranked as the fourth-best inside linebacker in the NFL by ProFootballFocus (PFF) this year. Quite honestly, I don't get it, but perhaps I'm missing something? Brown has nearly identical run defense (81.2 out of 100) and pass coverage (81.6) grades, and PFF has Brown having played 282 pass coverage snaps.

The main question is this: Why is Josh Harvey-Clemons on the field a significant amount of time in nickel packages over Brown? The second-year linebacker/safety has been in coverage on 141 of his 181 total snaps this year, per PFF.

Mason Foster has much lower grades than Brown but has played over 100 more snaps of pass coverage.

What does that tell you? Coaches trust the slower, less gifted Foster more than the more athletic Brown. Period.

Foster, the 31st overall pick in 2017, has had a disappointing year on the field, even before the latest mind-numbing charges, but he also has not been healthy and clearly was lost at sea in the city by the bay.

He's mostly an inside linebacker capable of playing both interior positions and walking out in coverage. The former Crimson Tide linebacker is 6'1 and 228 pounds, and had a very good rookie year in all phases.

Here's a huge reason why the Redskins likely pulled the trigger and why it makes more sense. Brown is due to count $8.75 million against the 2019 salary cap. The Redskins would incur a $3 million dead cap hit if they were to release him, saving $5.75 million in overall cap space.

Mason Foster only counts $2.25 million against the 2019 cap in the final year of his deal, which is basically nothing for a leader and sturdy veteran.

Because the Redskins could have to pay over $25 million in cap space to the quarterback position, they are going to need to trim wherever possible. Assuming he's on the team in 2019, Foster would only cost the Redskins $1.28 million, per OverTheCap.com.

The Redskins are looking at more than $12 million at inside linebacker for 2019. If the troubled Foster stays clean, they can shed that total cap output to a little over $6 million. That's significant savings and affords them greater flexibility at other positions.

This is a move that is already being crushed and rightfully so, but if we're evaluating on a pure football and salary cap basis, it makes perfect sense for the Washington Redskins and that's why they did it. 

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