- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

The Washington Redskins must clear more than $3million of salary cap space just to sign their 10 draft picks.

The Redskins' rookie pool, or cap-within-the-cap to sign rookies, is $3.701million, ESPN.com reported yesterday. The club currently has only about $300,000 of room, though that will return to a bit over $500,000 when quarterback Dameyune Craig is released.

The contracts of only three Redskins defensive ends Marco Coleman and Bruce Smith and running back Stephen Davis allow Washington to create significant cap space, and unfortunately there are significant disincentives to restructuring any of the deals.

Coleman, whose starting spot is in jeopardy to free agent signee Renaldo Wynn, is a strong candidate for a post-June1 cut unless he drops his salary to around the minimum. Washington would save $3.5million by releasing the 2000 Pro Bowl pick after June1. That move, if it occurs, might be the only major one the club would have to make.

If Coleman drops his salary to $750,000 and agrees to kill a $500,000 roster bonus due on June5, the Redskins would save $2.75million but probably still need more space. And Coleman almost certainly would not agree to such a restructuring because he would get far more money in free agency.

Smith turns 39 on June18 and there is heavy speculation that he will not be an every-down player. Clubs prefer to restructure the contracts of talented young players who are expected to be around awhile. If Smith, for example, redoes his deal and retires at season's end, all the base salary shifted to future years would come due in 2003 or 2004.

Of course, Smith could be asked to lower his $3.5million base salary, though Washington's only leverage would be threatening to cut him.

Davis has been told by the organization that he will be cut after the season if he does not sign a new contract. So Washington could get cap space from that deal, but it won't happen anytime soon. Davis' last contract talks dragged out all spring and summer, and the final agreement wasn't signed until just before the season started. In the meantime, the team would not want to restructure the current contract.

The Redskins are expected to pick up a bit of cap space by cutting long snapper Ethan Albright and cornerback Donovan Greer. Those two moves would clear a total of $1.2million a little more if they happen after June1.

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