Coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen defiantly vowed to move forward with an offseason plan that is significantly altered by the loss of $18 million of salary cap space for the 2013 season. Half of the salary cap penalty was applied last season, and the other half affects Washington’s 2013 cap.
Allen, in his first detailed comments about the penalty, called it a “travesty of fairness.”
Shanahan, meanwhile, expressed frustration but vowed to make the best of the team’s financial limitations.
“We’re not able to go out in free agency,” Shanahan said. “We might be able to do it for one guy or two guys, depending on what the money is. But that’s just the hand we were dealt and are dealing with.”
The weight of the penalty fell on the Redskins earlier Monday when they released veteran DeAngelo Hall, who coaches regarded as their best cornerback.
Releasing Hall saved the Redskins $8 million in 2013 salary cap space, and got the club about $1 million under the cap, Shanahan said. Washington, like all teams, has to be in compliance with the salary cap when the new league year begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The Redskins will attempt to renegotiate several veterans’ contracts to create cap space and the potential to acquire free agents before the market opens. Shanahan implied some players will face the ultimatum of restructuring their contracts or being released.
Defensive end Adam Carriker restructured his contract Monday to remain with the team. His new contract lasts through 2015, just as his old one did. He is recovering from surgery to repair a torn left quadriceps tendon.
“Fortunately, our players are working with us in order for us to maintain our team and improve on last year’s season,” Allen said.
Shanahan is averse to restructuring deals because they can create dead money against the salary cap after the team decides to part with the player. It’s a stark contrast from the philosophy employed by the team before Shanahan and Allen took over in 2010.
“We’ve been trying to do things the right way, not structure things out into the future where it comes back and bites you three or four years from now,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to deal with the situation, and we’re not going to mortgage the future because of something that’s been done to us today.”
Shanahan’s top priority is retaining players who contributed to last year’s NFC East division championship team.
Releasing receiver Santana Moss, who turns 34 in June, would save the Redskins $4.5 million. He led the team last season with eight touchdown catches. Shanahan said Moss is not restructuring his contract “at this time.”
The lack of cap space casts into doubt whether the Redskins can re-sign Pro Bowl special teamer Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander has expressed his desire to re-sign and is willing to do so as long as the team is competitive with other offers. Even with the possibility of a discount, Shanahan made no promises.
“I hope we can compete with [other teams] financially,” Shanahan said. “But at the same time, he’s got to do what’s best for him and his family. We’ll find out and see if we’re in the ballpark, and hopefully we are.”
Such uncertainty followed the Redskins‘ resignation that their salary cap space is gone for good.
“We feel comfortable where we’re at as a team and our mindset getting ready for the season, but we’ll always look at our options,” Allen said.
The team never contemplated suing the league to regain cap space, he said.
“I know it’s like lawyer fantasy or fantasy lawyering and the different theories people can do,” Allen said.
Acceptance did not replace bitterness, though. Allen skewered the league and the NFL Players Association for agreeing last March to amend the 2011 collective bargaining agreement to include the cap penalty.
The league proposed the penalty, alleging the Redskins used the absence of a salary cap in 2010 to gain a competitive advantage by restructuring contracts to include large bonus payments that year.
The NFLPA claims the league strong-armed it into agreeing to the penalty. Union officials have said the league threatened to reduce the 2011 salary cap if the NFLPA did not agree to the penalty.
Allen said he does not believe the Redskins are being punished for refusing to engage in collusion. He insisted the Redskins never were warned they might be penalized for moving bonus payments into the uncapped 2010 season. He also is unsure how the league came up with the amount it penalized the team.
“Despite the fact that the NFL and the NFLPA supposedly represent all the clubs and all the players in the league, we don’t feel we were fairly represented in this case,” Allen said. “As we stated before and has been confirmed by the NFL, every contract we submitted to the NFL and the NFLPA during the  season was reviewed and approved by both the commissioner’s office and the NFL Players Association.
“Unfortunately, we’ve heard four different stories on how the number $36 million was reached at by the NFL and the NFLPA. Therefore we do not have an answer yet on what the truth is as to how they reached that number.”
He holds the NFL and NFLPA accountable for the penalty.
“They agreed to this,” Allen said. “As with any rule that is an agreement between the two, all the teams have to abide by it.”
Shanahan equated the loss of salary cap space to a catastrophic detriment.
“If you go on any football team and you take a look at $18 million or $36 million, you take off the best, maybe, six or seven players on each team,” he said.
That only strengthens his resolve.
“We were dealt a certain hand,” Shanahan said. “Our players will adjust. We will adjust, and it’s full speed ahead.”