- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2001

Last spring, when the Redskins were turning the free-agent signing period into "Supermarket Sweep," Your Humble Scribe cautioned them about the dangers of overindulgence. "You don't want a Florida Marlins situation," I wrote. "You don't want [them] winning the title one year and throwing bodies overboard the next. You want the team set up for a good, long run. [And] that might be difficult, since the salaries of [Bruce] Smith and [Deion] Sanders alone increase by a combined $6 million next season. Everything, financially speaking, seems to be geared to [the 2000 season]."

But Dan Snyder and his minions dismissed such concern as baseless hysteria. Snyder, The Washington Post wrote last April, "thinks the team is fine with the salary cap for the next five years." Six weeks later, Dan the Man was quoted as saying, "Let me ask you a question: Do you want to win, or do you not want to win? Make up your mind."

My favorite, though, was Vinny Cerrato's comment about Deion Sanders' seven-year, $56 million deal (including an $8 million signing bonus): "It fit nicely into the budget… . We feel good about the contract."

The Redskins didn't win, of course. They finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. And now, despite all their denials last spring, they're in serious cap doo-doo. Rick Snider and Jody Foldesy, The Washington Times' resident capologists, estimate the team is $13.9 million over the $67.4 million limit. Translation: Some guys are gonna have to go, just because of the money they make.

Snyder's biggest miscalculation was totally mishandling the Brad Johnson situation. You can't allow a Pro Bowl quarterback one your club gave up first-, second- and third-round draft picks for to get away for nothing. If you're not going to re-sign him, at least franchise him so you can trade him. A QB of Johnson's ilk would probably be worth a No. 1, something the rebuilding Redskins could definitely use.

But Snyder can't franchise Johnson because the hefty contract involved would put the Redskins even farther over the cap than they already are. And why are they so far over the cap? Because Dan just had to have Deion, Bruce Smith, Jeff George and Mark Carrier. The four of them took home $19.2 million last year in bonuses and salaries, but only $5 million of it counted against the cap. The rest a whopping $14.2 million will be counted against the cap in future years.

That's not good business unless you're winning Super Bowls. And the Redskins ain't winning Super Bowls.

"The Redskins are doing exactly what the 49ers used to do," Bill Walsh said after Snyder's buying spree last spring. "But four years from now they will pay a price."

Four years? How about right now? In addition to letting Brad Johnson go, the Redskins yesterday whacked Tre Johnson, another former Pro Bowler, to get under the cap and there will be more cuts later on. (Carrier? Dan Wilkinson?) The club also might have trouble re-signing James Thrash and Derek Smith. Does this sound like a well-managed franchise to you?

Here's something else to think about: The Redskins are releasing Tre Johnson, who has been hurt repeatedly and is coming off major knee surgery, but they apparently aren't releasing Michael Westbrook, who also has been hurt repeatedly and is coming off major knee surgery. How exactly did they arrive at this decision? If you ask me, Tre has been a better player over the years than Michael. And before I unloaded him, I'd want to see how he looked in minicamp. Cutting him now seems a little rash especially since Keith Sims, the other starting guard, was axed yesterday and center Cory Raymer is recovering from a knee injury himself.

But this is what happens when you live beyond your means. You back yourself into corners you don't want to be in. The Redskins, for instance, might have to replace almost their entire receiving corps in the offseason. Irving Fryar another of yesterday's casualties is gone, Albert Connell isn't being brought back and Thrash, as previously stated, may get a better deal elsewhere. That's a lot of turnover at one position.

The Redskins are going to have to finesse it, though, because they have no choice. Snyder's overspending left them with no choice. So it goes with the salary cap. Sooner or later, the bill comes due. It's just that, in the Redskins' case, it came sooner than the owner said it would. The future is yikes now.

The day he was hired, Marty Schottenheimer called salary cap management "a jigsaw puzzle," which is as good a description as any. He can only hope, as he cleans up Snyder's mess, that the Redskins aren't missing a few pieces when the season begins.


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