The Washington Times - March 13, 2012, 12:09PM

The Redskins are approaching the start of free agency Tuesday afternoon with approximately $17 million in salary cap space, a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

That total follows an $18 million penalty the Redskins absorbed Tuesday as a result of a recent agreement between the NFL and its Players Association.

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The league has penalized the Redskins total of $36 million in salary-cap space over the next two years for moving expensive contracts into the uncapped 2010 season in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage.

The Redskins are considering their options in challenging the penalty.

The league is requiring the Redskins to absorb at least half of the $36 million penalty in 2012, a source with knowledge of the situation said. A source on Monday confirmed multiple reports that the Redskins could choose how to prorate the penalty. It was not immediately clear whether the nature of the penalty actually changed.

The Redskins’ available space could change between now and the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. depending on whether they make any player moves. Linebacker London Fletcher and defensive end Adam Carriker are among the incumbents scheduled to become free agents at that time if Washington doesn’t re-sign them.

Washington had close to $31 million (previously reported as approximately $40 million) in 2012 cap space before the NFL penalized them Tuesday morning. The Redskins cleared approximately $5 million by releasing free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and fullback Mike Sellers on Monday, but that $5 million was not factored into the $31 million.