- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer demonstrated a long-term commitment to revamping the club yesterday, swallowing a huge salary cap hit by releasing defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield to clear major cap room in future seasons.

The release of Stubblefield saves just $586,000 against this year's cap, but the Redskins were able to clear another $7 million or so against that figure by restructuring several contracts. All NFL clubs had to comply with a 12:01 a.m. deadline today to be under this season's $67.4 million cap.

Parting with Stubblefield appeared surprising because other Redskins held higher potential cap savings. Defensive lineman Kenard Lang, for example, was not a starter last year and would have saved $876,000 by being released.

But Schottenheimer showed that the Redskins no longer live by a "win now" mantra. Stubblefield had the team's highest cap figure this year, $8.351 million, and was scheduled to have an even higher figure next year, $9.331 million. The latter number now vanishes from the Redskins' 2002 ledger, which has been setting up as a major hurdle.

"There are economic considerations, and they don't relate necessarily just to today," Schottenheimer said in a news conference at Redskin Park. "They can relate to the future. Those were part of the considerations that were made [in Stubblefield's release]. You look at trends in performance … trends in contract… . It's a combination of all those factors."

Stubblefield's termination offered little instant cap relief because he had a great deal of prorated signing bonus built up. Stubblefield was paid an $8 million signing bonus in 1998, and his deal was restructured in 1999 and 2000. Restructuring frees cap room in the short term (generally turning salary into signing bonus) but makes players more expensive to release in the future.

While the Redskins now eat $7.765 million of "dead money" for Stubblefield this season, they owe no cap room for him next season. Washington's dead-money total for 2001 is a jarring $11 million, but the team has not consumed any cap space for released players in 2002.

The Redskins parted with seven players to comply with this year's cap, which they exceeded by more than $14 million just two weeks ago. Gone are starting guards Tre Johnson and Keith Sims, wide receiver Irving Fryar, tackles Andy Heck, Derek G. Smith and Kareem Ellis and Stubblefield.

Stubblefield recorded 2 and 1/2 sacks and 53 tackles last season, numbers that don't necessarily reflect his solid year. But he never lived up to the expectations that accompanied the five-year, $32 million deal he signed after being named 1997 NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the San Francisco 49ers.

Stubblefield was known for his work ethic among teammates, and last year's improvement had many believing his career was on the upswing. Safety Sam Shade said Stubblefield's experience from those talented 49ers clubs winning the Super Bowl following the 1994 season will be missed.

"Dana, coming from San Francisco, he had championship experience. He had played in some big games in this league," Shade said. "That was something he brought to the table. He let guys know what to expect and how to approach the game. That's something we'll miss."

Schottenheimer likes Stubblefield's odds in the round of free agency that begins today, saying, "I think he's a good football player. I assure you, he will not have a problem finding another job."

"It was very difficult, certainly," Schottenheimer added. "I've known Dana since he was in college [my son and quarterbacks coach] Brian Schottenheimer played on the same team with him at the University of Kansas. But our system dictates that we make choices… . He brought great energy to this football team. He's a kid who played with a lot of enthusiasm."

Agent Neil Cornrich said he already was hearing from interested clubs. The Cleveland-based representative added that he and his client weren't totally surprised by the move.

"When you're a highly paid player, you always have an exit strategy," Cornrich said. "We knew it was possible. When there are defensive tackles like Ted Washington, John Randall and Chester McGlockton being released [around the NFL], it's certainly possible."

The release of Stubblefield had nothing to do with Redskins' defensive scheme, Schottenheimer said, confirming that he still is not thinking about playing a 3-4 unit, which would employ just one defensive tackle.

To fill Stubblefield's role, Schottenheimer is considering Lang, a natural end who was drafted in 1997's first round, and Delbert Cowsette, an undersized tackle who was taken in the seventh round last spring out of Maryland.

Meanwhile, it was unclear which contracts were restructured yesterday, with Schottenheimer declining to discuss specifics. It is believed defensive end Marco Coleman and quarterback Jeff George were targets, though they alone would not have gotten the Redskins to the required number.

Cornerback Champ Bailey agreed to restructure his deal Wednesday. Running back Stephen Davis did not redo his deal (except to reclassify a small amount of bonus money), and Shade, who restructured his contract in years past, said he was not asked to do so this year.

Schottenheimer said it is possible he could release more players to gain the cap room to sign others, but he reiterated that he doesn't expect the team to be active in free agency. He specifically shot down the idea of signing quarterback Elvis Grbac, released yesterday by Kansas City, but he was less emphatic about having no interest in Doug Flutie, the former Buffalo passer who would be far more affordable.


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