- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

The Washington Redskins and defensive end Marco Coleman aren't talking as the post-June 1 period of free agency looms, a strong indication that Coleman will be cut in coming weeks, NFL sources said yesterday.
Suitors already are emerging, led by the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles. Coleman was Miami's first-round pick in 1992 and spent his first four seasons there.
The Redskins and Coleman haven't spoken in several weeks since discussing several restructuring possibilities including the club's suggestion that Coleman simply reduce his $3.5million of new compensation to around the minimum $750,000 base salary.
Coleman, a Pro Bowl selection in 2000 and team leader during his three years in Washington, is due to make $3million in salary this season and a $500,000 roster bonus June5.
By waiting until after June1, teams can delay much of the salary cap impact of big-money cuts until the following season. Because the Redskins would cut Coleman before paying him the roster bonus, there is a short window for the move beginning after 4p.m. June1.
Washington stands to save $3.5million of cap space if it releases Coleman then. That room is crucial for the club, which currently has less than $600,000 of space, to sign its 10 draft picks and create an injury cushion for the season.
The only other players who offer the Redskins significant potential relief are running back Stephen Davis and defensive end Bruce Smith. However, neither player appears likely to redo his deal at this point.
It was expected that Washington would drive a hard bargain in restructuring talks with Coleman, and that's exactly what happened. The signing of veteran defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn, who has been playing Coleman's left end spot in offseason practices, made Coleman expendable.
Renegotiations generally take three forms: reducing compensation (the best option for clubs), converting compensation into incentives, or guaranteeing compensation (the best option for players). Each move saves cap space.
The Redskins' opening offer was for Coleman simply to drop his salary to around the minimum and eliminate his roster bonus. It took no time for Coleman to reject that, knowing that he would earn far more than the minimum as a free agent.
Coleman's main concern is to find a place to play for the next three or four years. Washington's offer, besides paying Coleman the least he possibly could make, would have left him in post-June 1 limbo again in 2003, because his massive current deal still would have been in effect.
Coleman made one renegotiation proposal that involved an exchange of lower salaries for guaranteed money. His cap figures in 2002 and 2003 would have been lessened by several million dollars apiece. The club rejected the offer.
With regard to Davis, the Redskins seem to have little leverage. The club initially threatened to cut him next winter if he did not sign a new deal this summer, then backed off its ultimatum. The sides have not spoken recently.
A new deal remains possible but Davis is due so much new compensation about $6.5million, including a $2.5million guarantee payable next spring that there is no reason for him to rework now. He wants to remain a Redskin but could command a $7million to $10million signing bonus as an unrestricted free agent next spring.
Smith, meanwhile, has told friends that he will not play for less than the $3.5million of salary he is due. That limits renegotiation scenarios. The Redskins could guarantee most of his salary or threaten to cut him, which might induce him to take a pay cut.
Set to turn 39 next month and already projected to be a part-time player by coaches and teammates, Smith is a poor choice to guarantee salary a tactic clubs prefer to use with young cornerstone-type players. Any cap savings by guaranteeing Smith likely would come due in 2003 or 2004.
All the Redskins' rookies practiced except wide receiver Cliff Russell, cornerback Rashad Bauman and long snapper Jeff Grau. Bauman and Grau have late graduations and cannot return until June15. Stephen Davis and tight end Zeron Flemister were among the few veteran absences. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey once again was held out of most team drills.

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