- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

The Washington Redskins are only about $3million below the 2002 salary cap, a surprisingly small figure that will limit their options in free agency, induce several veteran cuts and possibly eliminate them from the Drew Bledsoe sweepstakes before it even begins.
The Redskins' cap underage was revealed by NFL sources yesterday after it had been listed in league documents in the $11million range in recent weeks. Club officials knew the official inclusion of incentives and escalators earned in 2001 would leave them with their current figure, but those costs were higher than estimated by observers.
Among the Redskins veterans who might be released as soon as this week are cornerback Donovan Greer, kick returner Michael Bates and wide receiver Kevin Lockett. None of the cuts would net overwhelming cap space, but Washington does not have any players whose departures at least prior to June1, when cap accounting rules change would do so.
Greer spent most of 2001, his first season as a Redskin, on injured reserve with an ACL injury. Bates and Lockett, two other first-year Redskins, contributed to Marty Schottenheimer's 8-8 season but were made available on the expansion list this month.
Complicating Washington's cap situation is the fact that just 13 starters are under contract and 17 veterans are unrestricted free agents. Players in the latter group can begin signing elsewhere on Friday.
Friday also marks the start of the trading period, when several NFL teams are expected to try to deal for Bledsoe, New England's star quarterback who lost his job to eventual Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. The Redskins still might be among the clubs pursuing Bledsoe but he will carry a $5million salary to his new team.
The top free-agent quarterbacks include Seattle's Trent Dilfer, Chicago's Jim Miller and, following his release yesterday, former Atlanta passer Chris Chandler.
Quarterback, however, is just one of Washington's key needs in its first year under coach Steve Spurrier and vice president of football operations Joe Mendes. The Redskins also must find or re-sign starters at wide receiver, tight end and linebacker, on the interior offensive line and along the defensive line.
The Redskins could create cap space by renegotiating contracts, a tactic that frees up room in the short term and allows teams to pay for it later. Defensive ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman, running back Stephen Davis, cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker LaVar Arrington are candidates to have their contracts reworked.
Overall, Washington's cap situation isn't that bad. Many NFL clubs are cutting players this week to get below Friday's cap deadline, and last February the Redskins released seven players including defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield and guard Tre Johnson and renegotiated a number of contracts to trim an excess of about $16million.
Washington's 2002 cap room also dropped following recent contractual agreements with several young players. Signed last week were defensive tackles Delbert Cowsette and Jerry DeLoach ($300,000 apiece), while tendered were wide receiver Derrius Thompson ($563,000), fullback Bryan Johnson ($300,000) and tight end Zeron Flemister ($300,000).
The Redskins have 51 players signed or tendered for about $68million. The 2002 cap is $71.1million.
A sizable portion of Washington's cap is dedicated to players no longer on the roster. Cornerback Deion Sanders, for example, is retired but counts $5.7million against the 2002 cap. Quarterback Jeff George ($3.2million) and safety Mark Carrier ($1.8million) are the other big contributors to Washington's $10.8million of "dead money" this season.
Sanders, George and Carrier all signed in 2000, when the Redskins set an NFL record with a payroll approaching $100million. Massive cuts and low-cost signings last season by Schottenheimer, the one-year coach and director of football operations, got the Redskins' cap under control but the club is still a year or so from being in good shape.
Notes Washington hired former New Orleans trainer Dean Kleinschmidt and Baltimore strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton. Trainer Bubba Tyer has been promoted to an administrative role.
Kleinschmidt was a longtime Saints trainer before being ousted in a 1999 front-office overhaul. Morton was Baltimore's assistant strength coach the past two years after having the lead role in Carolina from 1995 to 1998.
Staff writer Rick Snider contributed to this report.



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