- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2001

The Washington Redskins have gone from blue-blooded to the Blue Light Special.
A year after springing for a record-setting payroll of nearly $100 million, the salary cap-strapped Redskins are in line to spend about half that figure in 2001.
With the roster almost complete under new coach Marty Schottenheimer, the Redskins payroll stands at just $47.8 million, according to calculations by The Washington Times.
The figure, based on the highest-paid 53 players, should increase to the low $50 million range by the time the roster is finalized. Currently the payroll includes soon-to-be-released cornerback Deion Sanders but excludes pending signing bonuses for Washingtons five draft picks and figures for several anticipated late additions to the roster.
The payroll figure and salary cap figure should not be confused. The payroll represents a clubs total outflow of money — base salaries, roster bonuses, reporting bonuses and workout bonuses, as well as the full signing bonuses paid that year. The cap is an accounting system that allows teams to have big payrolls at times and make up for it later.
Ultimately, a low payroll could help Washington avert a cap disaster, which the excesses of 2000 still might create. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys each have fielded substandard teams in recent years because of payroll excesses in the mid-1990s.
"I believe we have [dodged a cap crisis]," Schottenheimer said yesterday. "But theres still work to do."
M.J. Duberstein, research director at the NFL Players Association, said the Redskins fate still isnt clear.
"Im an economist, and in economics there is one great maxim: 'It all depends," Mr. Duberstein said. "If Schottenheimer is able to impose a management style that can blend efficient cap decisions with good personnel decisions, yeah, theyve averted disaster. At the very least, this year and next year they should be in good shape."
However, it appears Washington still faces a hurdle in 2003, with 18 Redskins currently under contract for about $66 million of cap space.
Ultimately, the Redskins low payroll is to be expected, with the cap working somewhat like a credit card.
"You can only rob [Peter] to pay Paul for so long," Mr. Duberstein said. "Its cyclical, based on any number of factors — the [league-wide] increase of the cap, the number of [a teams] draft choices."
Mr. Duberstein pointed out that the Redskins went through a similar cycle in the mid-1990s, when they had the NFLs highest payroll in 1994, second-highest in 1995 and lowest in 1996. And statistics show that each of the past three payroll leaders — the 1997 Detroit Lions, the 1998 Arizona Cardinals and the 1999 Green Bay Packers — had one of the leagues three lowest payrolls the season after it was the highest.
Last seasons lowest payroll belonged to the Cardinals, who spent just $55.3 million. Assuming payrolls increase somewhat this year — though it is clear fiscal responsibility has struck the NFL — Washingtons projection in the low $50 million range should be one of the leagues lowest.
For cap purposes, the signing bonus is prorated over the life of a given contract. Thus the 2000 Redskins spent nearly $100 million but stayed within the $62.2 million cap. This season Washington is only about $60,000 below the $67.4 million cap despite a tiny payroll.
Enormous signing bonuses were given in 2000 to linebacker LaVar Arrington ($10.75 million), offensive tackle Chris Samuels ($10 million), Sanders ($8 million), running back Stephen Davis ($7.5 million) and defensive end Bruce Smith ($4.25 million).
In contrast, Washingtons highest signing bonus this season is just $500,000, given to wide receiver Kevin Lockett and punter Bryan Barker.
The Redskins 2000 payroll ended up at $92.407 million, just ahead of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens $90.703 million. Both numbers easily eclipsed the previous record — $79.398 million, by the 1998 Cardinals.
In terms of total signing bonuses, the 2000 Redskins finished second to the Ravens, $60.5 million to $61.8 million.
Nonetheless, Washington finished a disappointing 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Coach Norv Turner was fired with three games remaining and the team later was turned over to Schottenheimer, who was given control over personnel as well as coaching decisions.
Releasing Sanders, which NFL sources have said the Redskins are prepared to do after June 1, when cap rules make it easier to cut high-priced players, will save $3.5 million against the payroll. But signing the draft picks, particularly first-round receiver Rod Gardner, will cost at least that much.
Late additions to the roster also will increase the payroll.
If Washington signs a backup quarterback like Trent Dilfer, he likely would receive a signing bonus more than the current team-high numbers given to Lockett and Barker.


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