- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cutting lightning rod LaVar Arrington before training camp opens this summer might be psychologically cleansing for the Washington Redskins, but the team won’t solve its salary cap problems by releasing its highest-priced player.

To do so, the Redskins likely will have to do a number of things, including reworking the contracts of several players and cutting or trading others who are in the final years of their deals.

The biggest chunk, of course, could come from Arrington’s complicated, reworked contract, which has a cap value of $12.046 million for 2006 — but only if the NFL and the players association can agree on an extension of their collective bargaining agreement during the next six weeks.

Without a new CBA by the start of the free agent signing period March 3, all of Arrington’s remaining signing and option bonuses would count $12.166 million against the 2006 cap no matter whether he’s on the roster. However, if the CBA is extended and keeps the long-standing June 1 rule in effect, cutting Arrington after that date and before July 15, when he’s due a $6.5 million roster bonus, will cost the Redskins $5.001 million this year, with the remaining $7.105 million counting in 2007.

Even if Arrington is cut and counts $5 million this year, the Redskins still would be roughly $15 million over the expected $95 million cap.

Relief will have to come from reworking the contracts of players like Pro Bowl offensive tackle Chris Samuels ($10.218 million cap value), 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), linebacker Marcus Washington ($5.167 million) and guard Randy Thomas ($4.912 million).

The difficulty is that Brunell, who has a base salary of $4 million, and Thomas ($3.5 million) are the only ones with bases of more than $1.5 million. The other five contracts don’t have a lot of leeway to turn salaries into bonuses, which can be prorated for up to five years.

The Redskins could save some money by cutting or trading players in the last years of their contracts, such as reserve safety Matt Bowen ($2 million), injured defensive tackle Brandon Noble ($1.7 million), backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey ($1.688 million), third cornerback Walt Harris ($1.5 million) and reserve center Cory Raymer ($985,000). Adding in oft-injured kicker John Hall ($1.5 million), whose contract expires in 2007, would push those savings past $8 million.

If those six players are subtracted from the roster and the Redskins are able to save $7 million on Arrington and, say, another $5 million by redoing the contracts of Brunell and Thomas, they would have a cap total of roughly $95 million.

So Washington would be at the cap, but that doesn’t figure in retaining its free agents: safeties Ryan Clark and Omar Stoutmire; tight end Robert Royal; defensive end Demetric Evans; special teams tackles leader Khary Campbell; snapper Ethan Albright; cornerback Ade Jimoh (restricted); linebackers Chris Clemons (exclusive rights) and Warrick Holdman; defensive tackle Cedric Killings; and running back Rock Cartwright. Only Clark and perhaps Evans figure to be somewhat expensive, but even nine minimum-level contracts are a burden for a cap-strapped team.

All of this doesn’t allow for adding any top-line free agents, such as Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne; increasing offensive line depth; finding a proven third cornerback; or signing its six draft picks (the first-rounder was dealt to Denver in April for the pick used to select quarterback Jason Campbell).

After all those money-saving moves and without keeping or adding free agents, the Redskins would have just 37 players on the roster, including 11 who barely have played for them if at all. Even if all those neophytes developed, Washington still would need 14 players to fill out the roster, eight more for the practice squad and an insurance fund to allow for signing replacements when players go on injured reserve.

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