- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

A fairly tight salary cap situation will complicate the Washington Redskins' attempts to address their three big issues before the start of free agency in early March.
Between now and the market's opening on March4, the club will attempt to re-sign offensive tackle Jon Jansen and defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, and it will restructure the enormous contract of running back Stephen Davis or release him.
But Washington won't have much leeway under the cap for Jansen and Gardener unless it first solves Davis' situation or reworks the deals of other veterans.
When the Redskins complete a series of expected cuts/accounting moves before the 2003 cap goes into effect (just as free agency opens), a reasonable early estimate leaves them with around 42 players consuming about $70million of the $73million projected cap.
That means Washington would have only about $3million of cap room to sign Jansen and Gardener. Already there has been talk of putting the transition tag on Jansen to reserve the right to match another team's offer; that move alone would cost about $4.5million of cap space.
Thus an early resolution to Davis' situation would be extremely helpful. He is scheduled to count $11.4million against the cap (or about 15 percent of the club's entire budget). Cutting him would save $5.2million, while signing him to a new contract could save about the same amount, if not more.
If the Redskins tag Jansen, the move must happen by Feb.24. So they might look to work out Davis' situation first, creating sufficient room to tag Jansen. Then they could match an offer that Jansen might get when the market opens about a week later.
One best-case scenario would have the Redskins re-signing Gardener, working out a deal for Davis and putting the tag on Jansen. Those moves would leave Washington maybe $1million or $2million under the cap limit with, say, 44 players.
Under those circumstances, the club still would have to rework the deals of players like offensive tackle Chris Samuels and cornerback Champ Bailey to get up to the 53-man roster limit and create an injury fund for the season.
And those last roster spots could be costly, including a first-round draft pick, two backup quarterbacks (assuming current rookie Patrick Ramsey is the starter), and solutions at wide receiver, guard and safety.
In short, the Redskins have considerable work to do this offseason, and they certainly aren't poised for a big spending spree.
However, the club seems to have altered some of its methods in recent years, specifically its habit of signing big-name free agents while failing to take care of its own players.
The most egregious examples came in the offseason that preceded the 2000 season, when Washington constructed the highest payroll in league history while cutting team leader Brian Mitchell and failing to address the expiring contract of quarterback Brad Johnson.
In place of Mitchell, one of the better kickoff and punt returners in the NFC for 9-3 Philadelphia, the Redskins signed cornerback Deion Sanders. And instead of discussing a long-term extension for Johnson, they acquired Jeff George. Sanders lasted just one year and then retired; George made it two games into 2001 before being cut.
But now the club appears intent on keeping Jansen and Gardener. Owner Dan Snyder recently called the agents for those two players in Jansen's case, to revive talks, and in Gardener's, to open them.
The plan for Davis is a bit less clear, because there have been no talks since the start of the season. The club seemingly is thinking about moving on coach Steve Spurrier has said he intends to give rookie Ladell Betts increased snaps over the next four weeks.
Washington's cap projection could change quite a bit in coming months. Currently it includes accounting moves like cornerback Darrell Green retiring, as well as projected cuts like that of safety Sam Shade. Also the estimate assumes the Redskins make tender offers to each of their young players and that no enormous escalators or incentives are reached.
Last year the Redskins' escalators and incentives substantially altered early projections, leaving the team with very little spending room after cushy projections. At this point a similar spike appears unlikely.

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