You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Over the weekend, two almost identical articles by Pete Prisco of CBS
Sportsline and Len
Pasquarelli of ESPN.com came to almost identical conclusions in regards to
the Redskins salary cap situation. They both claimed to have talked to a trio
of cap experts from various places and these experts told them that the
Redskins were in a cap situation that was so untenable that they may be forced
to make drastic cuts to get under the cap. The Redskins, they say, may be
forced to play the 2006 season with 15-20 rookies making the minimum in order
to get in compliance with the cap rules. There would have to be an
unprecedented bloodbath in regards to the roster.
As those two writers are notorious for their frequent
anti-Redskins biases, their pieces were immediately met with derision from all
around Redskins nation. “There they go again,” was the common refrain.
Well, this observer, accused of being a homer far more often
than he’s called anti-Redskins, is here to tell you that, as painful as it may
be to say it, what Pete and Lenny said is by and large true. If there is not
extension of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) before the free agency
period begins on March 3, the Redskins will officially take up residence in the
dreaded cap hell. The Redskins took a gamble and, as of right now, it looks as
though they may well lose it.
The gamble they took was to insert roster bonuses into the
contracts signed by Marcus Washington, Clinton Portis, and others. Since these
bonuses are not guaranteed, they all count towards the 2006 salary cap, pushing
it up to a number that is some $20 million over the limit, which will likely
come in at $95 million.
The Redskins had to structure those deals in that way in
order to make them acceptable under the current collective bargaining agreement
between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The gamble that they took was
that the CBA would be extended and revised before the ’06 free agency season
began. That would allow them to guarantee the roster bonuses for those players,
meaning that they could spread out the impact over the life of the contract.
That would, for example, lower Shawn Springs’ cap number by some $2.3 million,
Portis’ by $2.25 million. The cap savings by this accounting procedure would
total $15 million. The rest of the overage could easily be handled by cutting
some fringe players and restructuring some other contracts.
It was a reasonable gamble at the time the contracts were
drawn up. The NFL and the NFLPA have never before gone to the brink of an
uncapped year, which is what 2007 would be under the current CBA, before
extending the agreement. However, we find ourselves about 10 days before free
agency starts and a CBA extension does not appear to be imminent. In Sunday’s
Washington Post an NFLPA representative said that the chances of reaching a
deal were not very good. That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen or won’t
happen. It means that every minute that passes without a new agreement pushes
the Redskins a minute closer to entering cap hell.
Without a CBA extension the Redskins will need some very creative
measures, some very painful decisions and/or some unprecedented cooperation by
many players to get under the cap. There will be an article here Tuesday on WarpathInsiders.com that will look at
some creative options. Right now, though, let’s focus on the latter two.
One of the problems with cutting players is that with the
contracts structured as they are and the fact that most of the contracts are
pretty new, there isn’t much money to be saved in releasing a lot of players
with big camp numbers. For example, LaVar Arrington counts about $12 million
towards the ’06 cap, but releasing him would result in a slightly higher cap
charge than that because of uncharged money already paid to him. It’s like
being upside down on a car loan, when the car is worth less than the payoff amount.
Cutting Arrington would the put Redskins further away from the goal of being
able to get under the cap. The same is true of such players who might be
considered expendable in a crisis such as Mark Brunell and Davis Patten.
Now, to be sure, there are players that the team could
release that actually could save money. Some of these players are ones that the
Redskins would rather not cut such as Marcus Washington, Ladell Betts, Jon Jansen and Joe Salave’a. However, the Redskins could cut those four plus Taylor Jacobs, Renaldo Wynn, Pierson Prioleau, Phillip Daniels, James Thrash, Cory Raymer, John Hall, Patrick Ramsey, Walt Harris, and Matt Bowen and still be
about $8 million shy of being able to make it under the cap.
To realize the maximum cap savings, which are obviously
necessary, these players would have to be replaced with rookies earning the
minimum salary. Thus the “15-20 rookies” alluded to by Prisco and Pasquerelli.
The Redskins will not release all of the players on the list
above. To make up the difference and to clear the remaining cap space they will
have to restructure some contracts and, in the process, ask some players to
give back real money.
This doesn’t happen very often. Usually when you hear about
a player redoing his contract to help the team create cap room he doesn’t give
up a dime. It’s usually just a matter of deferring something or guaranteeing
all or part of a salary to spread out the cap hit. The player is not, as many
believe, “taking one for the team” when he cooperates in such restructurings.
But it appears that if the Redskins are going to be able to
scrape under the cap without losing some key players in the prime of their
careers some players are going to have to take a pay cut, plain and simple. And
if they don’t, well, the Redskins will enter another level of hell altogether.
Again, more on that in an article here on Tuesday. The point
here is to tell you that, without a CBA extension, Chicken Little (and Pete and
Lenny) will be right. The sky will be falling. A whole slew of players that
have been solid contributors will be gone. There will be so many young players
on the roster that the team mascot will have to be changed to Barney. The
Redskins won’t be able to afford any free agents; heck, they won’t be able to afford
cab fare for a free agent from Dulles to Redskins Park.
There is the possibility that a CBA extension will get done
and none of this will have to happen. It’s very difficult to assess the chances
of that happening; it may not look good now but a breakthrough in the
negotiations could occur at any time. But if it doesn’t, well, things will get
ugly. If you’re a Redskins fan, keep your fingers crossed, hang a horseshoe in
a appropriate spot, be on the lookout for four-leaf clovers, or whatever you do
to try to bring on good luck. This isn’t typical media anti-Redskins spin.
the real thing.