Norman confirmed the move late Friday morning when he posted a tweet that read “Grateful for Everything” just minutes after the NFL Network reported that he would be released. Richardson was let go a little before noon.
Neither move was a surprise. Many around the NFL had expected Washington to let go of Norman. The 32-year-old’s play had declined in recent years, making it hard for the Redskins to justify the final season of the five-year, $75 million deal he signed in 2016, the NFL’s second-biggest cornerback contract. By cutting him now, Washington saves $12.5 million of salary cap room.
Richardson never became the deep threat the Redskins had hoped when they signed him to a five-year $40 million contract in March 2018. Injuries held him to just 17 games and 48 catches for 507 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons with Washington.
The two releases open up $15 million of cap space, giving the Redskins roughly $54 million of cap room ahead of next month’s free agency.
Rivera, who was hired two days after the end of the regular season, has not rushed into player decisions, taking time to build a coaching staff and letting those assistants assess the team they have inherited. The staff reconvened this past Monday to define the core players around whom it wants to build and to begin plans for free agency and April’s draft.
Rivera has spoken with star left tackle Trent Williams, who missed last season in a dispute with former team president Bruce Allen, in the hope of getting Williams to return.
Ironically, Norman was released by the coach who helped build his career with the Carolina Panthers. Under Rivera, Norman blossomed from a fifth-round draft pick in 2012 to a star within three years. In 2015 he was considered one of the league’s top corners, when he forced three fumbles and intercepted four passes, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns.
The Panthers went to the Super Bowl that season, and Norman was named first team All-Pro. But he was cut the following April after the Super Bowl in a salary dispute with Carolina’s general manager Dave Gettleman. Within days, he had signed with the Redskins
Norman’s play in Washington never matched that of 2015. Hampered in part by a defense that wasn’t as efficient as the Panthers’, Norman struggled to meet the expectations of his huge contract. In his four seasons with the Redskins, he had seven interceptions and eight forced fumbles. Last year, his play fell off considerably, as he battled small injuries and the team’s defense fell apart.
In mid-November, Washington’s interim coach Bill Callahan told Norman the team wanted to look at younger players and didn’t want to play him the rest of the season. Norman balked at being made inactive and continued to be in uniform but barely got onto the field in 2019′s waning weeks. He didn’t fly to Dallas for the team’s final game.
When asked late in the season if he still believed he was an elite cornerback, Norman quickly said yes
“I don’t believe anything. I am,” Norman said. “When you are something, you don’t believe it; you go out and do it. Sucks that I can’t prove it right now.”
Friday’s moves could be the start of a larger roster purge. Players such as linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and tight end Jordan Reed have large contracts that Rivera could decide to terminate. Both finished last season on injured reserve. Ree, who has suffered multiple concussions, missed all of 2019 as he dealt with the effects of a concussion suffered in a preseason game.
Washington has a group of young cornerbacks that intrigued last year’s coaches. Quinton Dunbar might be the best of those players, but has dealt with leg injuries the past two seasons. Earlier this week, Dunbar expressed frustration that Rivera has not tried to renegotiate his deal, which has one season left, demanding to be traded or released.
Fabian Moreau, Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson have all shown promise over the past two seasons but have struggled with injuries. Jimmy Moreland, a seventh-round draft pick last year, played well as the slot corner toward the end of last season.