The Washington Redskins plan to release cornerback Deion Sanders after June 1, when salary cap rules make it easier for teams to cut high-priced veterans, The Washington Times has learned.
Sanders currently plays for the Cincinnati Reds and likely would miss the Redskins summer training camp and at least four regular-season games if he returned to the team this season.
The Redskins could place Sanders on the Did Not Report list during training camp instead of cutting him and recoup $205,882 — one-seventeenth of his $3.5 million salary — of salary cap space for each game he misses.
However, National Football League sources said the club would rather recoup $3.5 million of cap space by cutting him in June and eliminate what could be a frustrating wait for Sanders to return to the Redskins from the Reds.
The outfielder is expected to play baseball through the end of the Reds season. Baseballs regular season ends Sept. 30, the day of the Redskins fourth regular-season game, and the postseason lasts several more weeks.
Sanders contract with the Redskins allows him to miss training camp and games to play major league baseball.
Placing Sanders on the Did Not Report list would allow the Redskins to play him when he returns in October — and, just as importantly, keep other teams from signing him. It also would delay the big cap hit of Sanders departure until 2003.
Sanders signed a seven-year, $56 million contract with the Redskins on June 5 of last year amid much fanfare. The contract included an $8 million signing bonus.
Sanders played well, though not spectacularly, in what was a disappointing season for a team many predicted would reach the Super Bowl.
Barring an unexpected change of feelings, though, the Redskins will cut Sanders shortly after June 1. Sanders still would count $1.143 million against this seasons salary cap and consume $5.714 million of the 2002 cap.
The Redskins could cut Sanders as early as June 2. They then would use the freed cap space to make final additions to their roster, including signing Trent Dilfer or Steve Beuerlein as a backup quarterback to Jeff George.
Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer declined to comment on Sanders.
However, recent personnel moves by Schottenheimer demonstrate that he is preparing to play without the cornerback. The coach signed free agent Donovan Greer on April 20, then spent his second-round pick in the April draft on Fred Smoot, a Mississippi State standout whose stock fell out of the first round because of a marijuana charge that later was dropped.
Sanders, 33, has not definitively said he would forsake the Reds to return to the Redskins, but he has dropped plenty of hints that baseball is his new priority. Through Mondays games he was hitting .273 with two stolen bases, though he has not had an RBI since last weeks 3-for-3 debut.