Deadline pressure is about to jumpstart what has been a quiet Redskins offseason.
Beginning at 12 a.m. Saturday, agents for the 14 Redskins’ whose contracts expire at 4 p.m. Tuesday are free to negotiate with other clubs. It’s the first time the NFL calendar includes such a period. Agents for players with expiring contracts are permitted to gauge the market for their clients prior to the start of free agency and the new league year at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Contracts with other clubs can’t be finalized until free agency begins Tuesday afternoon, but Pro Bowl special teamer Lorenzo Alexander, tight end Fred Davis, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, right tackle Tyler Polumbus and free safety Madieu Williams – all starters in 2012 – are free to begin shopping their services.
“Agents can talk to clubs, they can go back to the old club with what one would assume would be a bona fide offer or some parameters,” said former Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian, who’s now an ESPN analyst. “They can gauge who is interested and who is not interested. So all of those things may bring a little more organization to it than had previously existed. But I’m going to be as anxious as you to see if we come out of the box with deals at 4:01 p.m., or if it serves as a way to sort of set the market before people begin to do deals.”
The Redskins are limited because they’re $2.9 million over their penalty-reduced salary cap, according to league sources. The team last May lost in arbitration its dispute of a $36 million salary cap penalty levied by the league and agreed to by the NFL Players Association. As a result, Washington’s 2013 salary cap has been reduced by $18 million with no relief in sight.
The Redskins, then, face difficult decisions in the process of getting under the salary cap by 4 p.m. Tuesday and creating sufficient 2013 cap space to retain certain free agents and sign free agents from other teams.
Washington could save cap space by terminating the contracts of several veterans, such as cornerback DeAngelo Hall ($8 million), wide receiver Santana Moss ($4.5 million) and linebacker London Fletcher ($3.4 million). However, those three, in particular, were significant contributors to last season’s division championship. Moss, 33, led the team with eight touchdown catches. Fletcher, 37, led the defense with 188 tackles and played in his fourth straight Pro Bowl.
The team could restructure some veterans’ contracts in order to create cap space. However, the Redskins have not yet asked Trent Williams or Pierre Garcon, two players whose 2013 cap numbers are among team’s most expensive, to restructure their contracts, according to people who requested anonymity because the Redskins have not publicized their intentions. Restructuring contracts often results in a higher risk of dead money at the end of the deal, a pitfall to which general manager Bruce Allen is particularly averse.
The Redskins also must consider how to retain several restricted free agents who positively impacted last season’s division title team. Washington has until 4 p.m. Tuesday to tender qualifying offers to fullback Darrel Young, tight end Logan Paulsen, outside linebacker Rob Jackson, long snapper Nick Sundberg, nose tackle Chris Baker and return specialist Brandon Banks.
The team is pursuing cap-friendly multi-year contracts with several of its restricted free agents, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation. The values of one-year RFA tenders range from $1.3 million to 2.9 million and are not conducive to the Redskins’ cap situation.