Six days before the NFL's free agent signing period, the Washington Redskins' salary cap situation remains messy.
The Redskins are about $20 million over the expected $95 million cap, a figure they have to reach by Friday along with the other 31 teams. Ordinarily, Washington could just swallow hard and cut some high-priced veterans or redo the costly contracts of a few players it wants to keep by giving them more bonus money.
However, if there's not an extension of the collective bargaining agreement by Friday, there will be no June1 rule this year. That's the rule that has allowed teams to cut players after June 1 and take most of the cap hit in the following season (in this case, 2007).
For example, the Redskins could normally bite the bullet and cut veteran defensive end Renaldo Wynn on June 2 in order to save $1.925 million on this year's cap, deferring half of his $3.06 million in pro-rated bonus costs until 2007. However, without a June 1 rule, all of the remaining bonus money counts this year. That's less than $400,000 than it will cost to keep the four-year starter on the team, so it makes little sense to release him.
Also, if the CBA isn't extended, redoing contracts will be vastly more complicated because the 30 percent rule will take effect. Under that policy, salaries will only be allowed to increase by 30 percent from one year to the next. So a player at $1 million in 2006 could be at only $1.3 million in 2007 and so on, thus preventing the balloon years that have become standard in recent contracts. That makes reworking the contracts of such high-priced talent as offensive tackle Chris Samuels ($10.218 cap number) much more complicated.
Washington can at lest claim that it's not alone in its predicament. The New York Jets, Kansas City, Denver, Miami, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Tennessee are also at least $5 million over the cap as the deadline approaches.
The Redskins could save more than $8 million by cutting players in the last years of their contracts such as reserve safety Matt Bowen ($2 million), third cornerback Walt Harris ($2 million), injured defensive tackle Brandon Noble ($1.7 million), backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey ($1.688 million) and reserve center Cory Raymer ($985,000). But that would still leave Washington more than $12 million over the cap before tendering offers to its own restricted free agents guard Derrick Dockery, linebacker Chris Clemons and corner Ade Jimoh or trying to sign any unrestricted free agents such as any of the top available receivers.
The Redskins would also have no cap room to re-sign starting strong safety Ryan Clark, starting tight end Robert Royal, top reserve defensive lineman Demetric Evans, special teams tackles leader Khary Campbell, top backup linebacker Warrick Holdman, third defensive tackle Cedric Killings and gutsy running back Rock Cartwright.
While it would be tempting to cut linebacker LaVar Arrington and his $12.046 million compensation, without the June 1 rule, releasing Arrington would save Washington $5 million less. That would leave the Redskins more than $7 million over the cap while minus their three-time Pro Bowl weakside linebacker, their third corner, No. 2 quarterback and top backup offensive lineman.
More cap room typically could come from reworking the contracts of such players as three-time Pro Bowl pick Samuels, fellow offensive tackle Jon Jansen ($5.604 million), cornerback Shawn Springs ($5.558 million), running back Clinton Portis ($5.476 million), quarterback Mark Brunell ($5.433 million), Pro Bowl strong side linebacker Marcus Washington ($5.167 million) and guard Randy Thomas ($4.912 million).
However, only Brunell ($4 million base), Jansen ($4 million) and Thomas ($3.5 million) have bases higher than $1.5 million. The other four don't have much leeway to turn salaries into bonuses which can be pro-rated for up to four years. And now there's that pesky 30 percent rule to consider.