- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2001

Guard Tre Johnson, a Washington Redskin longer than all but one teammate, appears a likely salary cap casualty next week when the club moves to trim a surplus of at least $9.9 million before the March 2 deadline.
In addition, wide receiver Irving Fryar, guard Keith Sims and tackle Andy Heck appear good bets to depart, either by retirement or being released. Johnson and Fryar might be able to remain by accepting massive pay cuts, but team sources say Sims, who is rehabilitating a blown Achilles' tendon, and Heck are not expected to return.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer could release another player or two as he moves to meet the $67.4 million spending limit, and he almost certainly will do so after June 1, when the prospective cap charges could be spread into 2002. Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson is a leading candidate to be let go after June 1.
For now, the departures of Johnson, Fryar, Sims and Heck would save the Redskins nearly $5.4 million in cap costs.
The remainder of the current $9.9 million overrun could be eliminated through contract renegotiations with cornerback Champ Bailey, defensive end Marco Coleman and running back Stephen Davis, plus at least one other move. Other moves include renegotiating safety Sam Shade's contract or signing receiver Michael Westbrook, tight end Stephen Alexander or defensive end Kenard Lang to new multi-year deals.
Following their infamous $100 million season, the Redskins have decisions beyond the fairly obvious to make before March 2, when each NFL team must be below the cap. Releasing Johnson, Fryar, Sims and Heck, and renegotiating Bailey, Coleman and Davis, would cut away only about $8.9 million.
The Washington Times, after analyzing the Redskins' cap situation and discussing it with those inside and outside team circles, projects those seven moves to be among the variety the club makes in its initial round of cap adjustments.
The Times calculated the Redskins' cap surplus to be at least $9.9 million after earlier projections put it at about $6 million. The increase, largely attributed to previously unknown incentives earned by players last season, puts the Redskins at about $77.3 million against the cap, with 49 players under contract. Other unknowns could mean Washington's current figure actually is higher.
During the offseason, the club's 51 highest-paid players will count against the cap, meaning the Redskins will have to make even more cuts and renegotiations just to fill out the roster and sign draft picks.
Among Washington's needs are two starting linebackers and likely replacements for Johnson and Sims, both starters on the offensive line. Also, the club is interested in re-signing receiver James Thrash, an unrestricted free agent, and needs another quarterback, punter and kicker.
Johnson, 29, a seven-year Redskin, could salvage a future with the club if he is willing to trim his $2.7 million salary closer to the veteran minimum of $477,000. However the 1999 Pro Bowl selection probably would be better off testing the free-agent market.
Johnson played just four games at right guard last season before tearing an ACL. His NFL career has been marred by injuries, with just one full 16-game season (1999). His health will be a key factor as the Redskins make a final decision on his status.
Fryar, 38, also might stick around if he is willing to play for $477,000 instead of $1.25 million. But Schottenheimer is determined to make the team younger, and at wideout he is searching for a hidden gem among seven youngsters under contract.
Sims, 33, played through Achilles' tendinitis at left guard from the season's first weeks until the tendon finally ruptured Dec. 10 at Dallas. The three-time Pro Bowl selection (1993-95) is not expected to be ready to play until October, according to team and league sources. Sources also say Heck, 34, a solid stopgap at tackle and guard, is unlikely to return.
The potential release of Sims demonstrates a hard reality in the cap-era NFL. Sims could have sat out several more midseason games (he missed one) in order to heal himself and protect his future. But he kept playing.
"We'll see who does the honorable thing here," Sims' agent, Alan Herman, said yesterday from New York. "Is there any loyalty for Keith Sims going out and being the good soldier?"
Herman added that Sims still plans to return by midseason, either for the Redskins or another team.
Wilkinson, 27, owns the club's second-highest cap figure, after fellow defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield. Stubblefield's superior play in 2000 and higher cost to release make Wilkinson a more likely target. Releasing Wilkinson after June 1 would save the Redskins a much-needed $4.1 million against the cap.
Safety Mark Carrier, 32, has a $1.4 million salary in 2001. He is expected to miss at least two games because of a helmet-to-helmet hit in last season's finale, and he will play under close scrutiny when he returns. Ultimately, the Redskins may decide Carrier is not worth the risk and release him after June 1.
Darrell Green, 41 today, has a $1.5 million salary in 2001 to be a projected third cornerback, making him, on paper, a good target for a voluntary salary reduction or a post-June 1 release. But Green's celebrated status in the community is a key incentive to retain him, even at a high price.
The pending renegotiations of Bailey, Coleman and Davis have little downside. Each player is expected to be with the club for several more seasons, meaning current salaries can be prorated into later years. That means the Redskins can guarantee the money with little negative effect.

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