You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
The group that decides personnel matters for the Washington Redskins may get a whole lot bigger this coming offseason.
The team may add a general manager to the mix, but that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm referring to is a group of about a dozen veterans, players who carry 2007 salary cap numbers of about $3.5 million and over. Some of the members of this group are Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington, Jon Jansen, and Chris Samuels. Many of them will be asked to restructure their contracts to create more 2007 cap room. Unlike in the past when many veterans were willing to redo their deals "for the good of the team", there is a growing feeling around Redskins Park that many of them may balk at restructuring for what they perceive is also the good of the team.
As of right now, according to both our WarpathInsiders.com capologist Robert Large and David Elfin of the Washington Times, the Redskins are within $1 million of the 2007 cap of $109 million or perhaps slightly over. That's uncomfortably close at best and it's worse because that number is comprised of the cap numbers of just the 41 players who currently are under contract for 2007. Because the salaries of the top 51 players count towards the cap the Redskins will have 10 more salaries count against that number meaning that they will have to find $3 to $4 million just to be able to fill out a roster with minimum salary bodies.
The good news is that most of the team's starters are among those who are under contract. (Or, given that the team will finish with a double-digit loss total, that may be the bad news). But the team desperately wants to retain guard Derrick Dockery, who will be an unrestricted free agent and that move will cost considerably more than the minimum salary. Even if a cap-friendly deal can be worked out another million or two of cap room will need to be cleared. On top of that the team has a draft pick that is likely to be in the top ten and, unless they trade down, that will eat up some cap space as well.
Still, $5 or $7 million over hardly is cap hell. That could be cleared out by releasing such players as John Hall, Christian Fauria and David Patten and a few minor renegotiations. Few will refuse to restructure under such circumstances because the job they save may be their own.
It will get sticky, however, if the team asks for players to redo their deals in order to go on a free agency spending spree. What happened last year may make some players hesitant to do so. They agreed to the restructures and looked on as the team used the savings to make Adam Archuleta the highest paid safety in the history of mankind and to bring in an unproductive Brandon Lloyd and pay Antwaan Randle El good #2 receiver money to be a #3 receiver and punt returner.
Around Redskins Park, there are grumblings from some players that they wished that they hadn't acted as enablers in the team's drunken sailor spending spree. Some are wishing that they had just said no to the team's request. Perhaps if enough of them had refused to restructure then the team would have retained the popular Ryan Clark for a reasonable price instead of having to figure out how to spread out the approximately $8 million in dead cap money that will have to be written off when Archuleta gets cut in a few months.
These players who feel that they were burned last year could be very reluctant to make the same mistake again. While there is a high degree of respect for Gibbs the coach and Gibbs the man among team members, like any thinking people the players have to be skeptical of the abilities and effectiveness of Gibbs the personnel director. In essence, players like Springs and Washington control the purse strings. If they don't trust Gibbs to spend the money wisely, if they see another Archuleta disaster or Lloyd misstep coming, they may well not provide him with the money to spend.
So, the current starting cornerback may well have a hand in deciding whether or not the team can go out and hire his replacement. Do the members of the offensive line want to see the defense overhauled or do they think that things just need a few tweaks? Are veterans going to be concerned that dead cap money in the next few years will cost them their jobs?
Offseasons are always interesting times in Ashburn. This year promises more intrigue than usual with the players having so much say in what the team can and can't do.
For complete, detailed Redskins salary cap information visit the CPND cap information center, compiled by resident capologist Robert Large.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com