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Mailbag: Tanard Jackson, Practice Squad & More

This week’s installment of the mailbag answers questions about the suspended free safety, the effects of the $18 million salary cap penalty on the Redskins in future years and more.

BY ZAC BOYER

With the Redskins set to open the season Monday against the Eagles at FedEx Field, questions still linger about the status of suspended free safety Tanard Jackson and the makeup of the Redskins’ roster.

If you have a question to be answered in next week’s mailbag, send it by e-mail to zboyer@freelancestar.com with your name and location or via Twitter with your name.

Q: What’s the latest on the status of Tanard Jackson? – Several people, everywhere

A: I get this one a lot – too much, in fact – so I’ll go ahead and provide this update: There is none. Jackson, a free safety, was suspended indefinitely by the league on Aug. 31 of last year for a third violation of the policy on substances of abuse. Rather than the suspension lasting for a set timeframe – such as the four-week banishment typically doled out the first time – Jackson faces no set timeframe. He was eligible to apply for reinstatement starting last week, the one-year anniversary of the announcement, but it will be up to Roger Goodell on when he chooses to hear Jackson’s case.

Remember – Jackson, for all the hype, hasn’t played in a game in over a year, and he hasn’t been permitted to have any sort of contact with the Redskins’ coaching, athletic training or strength and conditioning staff since packing his belongings at the end of last preseason. There’s no guarantee he’s in proper condition to play football, and there’s also no promise that he’ll be a useful member of the team once, or if, he returns.

Q: I heard general manager Bruce Allen say the cap penalty will affect the team for years to come, and I do understand the domino effect, but won’t the Redskins be way under the cap next year? It seems like everyone has a one-year deal. – Scott, Virginia Beach

A: You’re right, Scott – the Redskins, as currently constructed, will likely have over $30 million in salary cap room entering next season. That’s a combination of the $18 million penalty that won’t be assessed, as well as the plethora of expiring contracts. Right now, only 41 of the 63 players currently on the active, injured reserve, suspended or physically-unable-to-perform lists are under contract past this season, which will lead to a lot of available cash – and likely a need to sign a lot of performing current players to new deals.

Allen, though, was referring to players who were free agents within the past year or two who could have signed with the Redskins and helped them at any point this season or in those to come. They could have used more experienced competition at right tackle, for example, and the only players the Redskins could sign during free agency were a pair of veterans who only commanded the minimum salary on the market – Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood.

That’s what was behind Allen’s statement.

Q: Is Chris Baker starting? If not, why isn’t Chris Baker starting? – Justin, Los Angeles

A: Though it was possible the Redskins would turn to converted nose tackle Chris Baker to fill the top role at left defensive end with Adam Carriker injured and Jarvis Jenkins suspended for the first four games, they’ll instead go with Kedric Golston, a seven-year veteran who has plenty of experience playing the position in the 3-4 scheme.

Baker moved outside during the spring to take advantage of his lateral quickness, which is more befitting a defensive end than a nose tackle, but he’s expressed willingness to play his old position as well. But Golston started 13 games in 2010, the first year of the Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett regime in Washington and the first year of the 3-4, and he’s been a steady backup in the previous two seasons as well.

Q: What do players on the practice squad make? It seems like a pretty good job if you can get it. – Keith, Quantico

A: The salaries of players on the practice squad increase every year, and this year, for the first time, the typical salary will crack six digits as the player will make $102,000 annually.

That’s assuming the player sticks on the practice squad roster for all 17 weeks of the regular season, that he’s not promoted to the 53-man roster or that another team attempts to sign him to its 53-man roster. Left tackle Tom Compton, for example, was the only draft pick last season not to make the initial 53-man roster, and while he started off on the practice squad, the team eventually bumped his salary significantly when multiple teams tried to claim him. He originally made $5,700 a week, or $96,000 annually, but was rewarded with a bump to $22,950 a week, or $390,000, in mid-November. Eventually, even that was hard to match, and the Redskins promoted Compton to the 53-man roster two weeks later.

Q: Thanks for all the information you report on the Redskins. I’ve been checking on whether any of the cut players got picked up. I saw that Tony Pashos was picked up by the Raiders and that DeJon Gomes was picked up by the Lions, but I expected more just because this year I thought we had a very deep team through preseason. Have you heard of any others players that were cut being picked up with another team? – Jeff G. via Twitter

A: Thanks, Jeff. The Raiders did indeed sign Tony Pashos to a one-year deal, while the Lions claimed DeJon Gomes off waivers on Sunday when he was released, which means they’re liable for the final two years on his rookie contract.

One other player released by the Redskins during training camp, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, signed a one-year contract with a team, joining the Falcons earlier this week. And Skye Dawson, the undrafted receiver/punt returner from TCU, was signed to the Buccaneers’ practice squad.

I didn’t expect all 35 players who were in camp with the Redskins to end up somewhere immediately, but a fair number of them will get a shot. That’s the measuring stick Shanahan has used to determine the quality of players on his roster – if someone who the Redskins can’t use ends up on someone else’s roster, he knows they’re no longer bringing in players who cannot play.

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