Washington Redskins defensive end Marco Coleman must wait until 4 p.m. Monday to begin negotiating with other NFL teams because June1 falls on a Saturday this year.
The club has informed Coleman that he will be cut when the post-June1 period, or second phase of free agency, begins. However, the league isn’t officially open tomorrow, the day players’ departures would become official. Cuts won’t become official until Monday evening.
Teams can cushion the salary cap impact of releasing a highly compensated player by making the move after June1. Instead of all of a player’s prorated signing bonus accelerating into the current year a pre-June2 mechanism that prevents cutting some players only the current season’s proration remains. All future proration comes due the following season.
In Coleman’s case, he will count $1.8million against the Redskins’ 2002 cap after being released, instead of $5.3million. The remaining $3.9million of prorated signing bonus (from his original signing bonus and a renegotiation in the spring of 2001) will count against the 2003 cap.
Both the $1.8million and $3.9million figures are considered “dead money” because Coleman no longer will be playing for the club. After Coleman’s release, the Redskins will have about $12.7million in 2002 dead money, $10.8million of which came from last summer’s post-June1 departures of Deion Sanders, Jeff George and Mark Carrier.
This year’s total cap is $71.1million.
Coleman, 32, a locker-room leader and 2000 Pro Bowl selection, is being released after failing to restructure his contract. Washington drove a hard bargain in restructuring talks, asking him to drop his new compensation to around the $750,000 minimum. The signing of veteran defensive end Renaldo Wynn gave the club leverage against Coleman.
Coleman was willing to take a pay cut to remain in Washington, and the Redskins remain interested in talking to him after he is released. However, it is extremely unlikely that Coleman will return. The Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles appear interested.
The Redskins’ $3.5million of cap savings from Coleman’s departure will be used to sign their 10 draft picks, create an injury fund for the season and perhaps pursue free agents. The club has untested players slated to start at defensive tackle and left guard and could look for veterans to fill those slots. Washington also must think about extending the final year of tackle Jon Jansen’s contract.
Any big-name signings will necessitate the creation of more cap space. Long snapper Ethan Albright and cornerback Donovan Greer have been marked as probable cuts for months now, but their departures would create only about $1.4million of space.
The key source of potential cap relief is in the massive contract of defensive end Bruce Smith. Owner Dan Snyder approached agent Leigh Steinberg about restructuring Smith’s deal, but it is unclear whether Snyder wants to guarantee most of Smith’s salary, turn part of his salary into incentives or pressure him into taking a pay cut.
The potential big-name signing is defensive tackle Sam Adams, who starred for the Baltimore Ravens under current Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. However, Adams’ price tag is high and there will be competition for him, particularly as more teams create cap room in the post-June1 period.
Washington might look at Carolina Panthers defensive end Jay Williams, an expected cut next week. At guard the Redskins could pursue two likely post-June1 releases, Ray Brown of the San Francisco 49ers or Glenn Parker of the New York Giants. The Redskins also might look at Matt Campbell, who was cut by the Houston Texans this week after being selected from Washington in the expansion draft.