- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

The Washington Redskins have re-opened talks to restructure the contract of defensive end Bruce Smith, agent Leigh Steinberg said yesterday. The move will alleviate the club's tight salary-cap situation and improve its chances of finding long-term solutions for running back Stephen Davis and offensive tackle Jon Jansen.
Groundwork for negotiations was laid earlier this summer when the sides discussed reducing Smith's $3.5million base salary by about $750,000 and guaranteeing much of the rest of it, NFL sources said. The guarantee would change salary into signing bonus for cap purposes and spread its impact into future seasons.
Current talks, which were not complete yesterday afternoon but were expected to wrap up quickly, involve roughly the same figures, Steinberg said. If the scenario plays out, Washington would save about $2.1million of cap space.
The Redskins have only about $800,000 of room too little to make any substantial additions and not even the $1million most clubs consider the minimum to enter a season braced for potential injuries.
Washington's cap shortage came somewhat unexpectedly; the team already has lost five players to season-ending injuries. Offensive lineman Rod Jones, defensive tackle Santana Dotson, cornerback Kato Serwanga, wide receiver Cliff Russell and tight end Robert Royal all are on injured reserve, consuming about $2.3million of cap space.
The cap savings from Smith's restructuring would allow Washington to tinker with the roster, replace injured players and make more enticing offers to Davis and Jansen. Cap room isn't absolutely necessary to give players new contracts, but it is standard to give at least a small signing bonus to entice players to skip free agency.
Davis, a two-time Pro Bowl rusher at age 28, will be cut next winter if his $11.4million cap figure can't be trimmed. To compare, the Redskins' highest number this season is Davis' $5.9million. Complicating his situation are questions about his role in coach Steve Spurrier's offense.
Jansen, one of the NFL's sturdiest and most talented right tackles at age 26, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. He would command a large multiyear contract on the open market and would be unlikely to return to the Redskins.
The Redskins have not entered substantive discussions with either player, but that could happen during the season or in the weeks immediately following it.
Washington tried to pressure Davis into negotiating a new deal in April to create cap room for this season. He later signed a contract in July that changed some of his future salaries though not next year's, the key one and altered the classification of some incentives this season.
Davis wants to remain a Redskin, but he realizes he could land a $7million to $10million signing bonus as an unrestricted free agent in the spring. Thus the onus is on Washington to come up with an offer lucrative enough to steer him away from free agency.
A new deal for Jansen appears more likely because he has a clearer value and more incentive to complete a new deal. By signing long term, Jansen, a 1999 second-round pick whose salary is a relatively modest $563,500, would ensure his first truly big payday something that might be lost if he gets injured this season.
Washington never mentioned releasing Smith to get him to accept a paycut, Steinberg said. Smith is close with owner Dan Snyder and is energized by Spurrier, and taking a $750,000 paycut when he has earned so much in 18 NFL seasons isn't a problem, according to the agent.
"His motivation is to help the team be as competitive as possible," Steinberg said. "For Bruce, at this late stage in his career, being with a winning team is critically important more important than having a few more dollars in his bank account. This is the team he wants to be with."
Note David Loverne is ahead of Ross Tucker at left guard, team sources said, but a final decision seemingly will hinge on how the two practice this week. Loverne played virtually no snaps against starting defenses in the preseason, while Tucker made two costly errors including a drive-killing personal foul penalty in the finale against the New England Patriots.

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