- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

About an hour after the NFL and its players union agreed to delay the start of free agency until Thursday, the Washington Redskins added to the pool of available players by cutting three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington late last night.

The Redskins announced the agreement with the former first-round pick just before midnight. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but cutting Arrington would have saved the Redskins only $100,000 before this new agreement was reached.

Negotiations between the league and the union over an extension to their collective bargaining agreement broke down earlier in the evening, but the delay revealed some hope of resuming talks. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said it would give owners a chance to consider the union’s latest proposal during a meeting tomorrow in Dallas.

Teams now face a 9 p.m. deadline Wednesday to cut players to get under the salary cap. The late move marked the third time yesterday the league pushed back the start of free agency.

By yesterday afternoon, there was enough progress in the negotiations in New York to prompt the league to delay by four hours a 6 p.m. deadline to cut players to get under the $94.5 million salary cap.

By early evening, the talks had broken off. The league then pushed the cutdown deadline to 11:30 p.m. without any suggestion of new talks, though clearly that changed.

“The talks ended after the NFL gave us a proposal which provided a percentage of revenues for the players which would be less than they received over the last 12 years,” said Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association. “After suggesting we extend the waiver deadline from six o’clock to 10 this evening, they gave us a new proposal which was worse than their prior offer. Quite naturally, we rejected that proposal and saw no need to continue meeting.”

Upshaw told The Washington Times: “It’s over. I cannot sell my players out for less than what they are already making.”

But Harold Henderson, the NFL’s executive vice president for labor relations, said the union rejected a proposal that would have added $577 million for players in 2006 compared to 2005 and $1.5 billion in the six years of the extension.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the players, the fans and the league,” Henderson said.

The Redskins are among the teams with the most serious salary cap difficulties. How much the deal with Arrington changed that won’t be known until at least today, when Washington coach Joe Gibbs is expected to discuss the popular player’s departure.

Before Arrington’s release, the Redskins were believed to be prepared to cut a group of former starters that included quarterback Patrick Ramsey, cornerback Walt Harris, safety Matt Bowen, center Cory Raymer, defensive tackle Brandon Noble, receiver James Thrash, kicker John Hall and punter Tom Tupa. Reserve receiver Taylor Jacobs also could be released despite the relatively paltry cap savings.

However, even after cutting those nine players, the Redskins would have had little cap room to re-sign other players or to pursue free agents as they have done almost every winter under owner Dan Snyder. With a new CBA, the cap could be $10 million higher, allowing the Redskins and other teams to hold on to some of their players.

The good news for the Redskins is that they had only two starters — strong safety Ryan Clark and tight end Robert Royal — who are due to become unrestricted free agents when the signing period begins early Thursday morning. Left guard Derrick Dockery was the only starter who was due to be a restricted free agent — the Redskins had the right to match any offers he received — and he signed his $712,000 tender offer yesterday.

Without an agreement to extend the CBA, there would be no June 1 rule this year. The rule allowed teams to cut players after that date and count a prorated portion of their signing bonus against the next season’s salary cap. Without that rule, all of the bonus money would count against this season’s cap.

The league and the players union can’t agree on how to split revenue. The union wants 60 percent to go to player salaries. The league has offered 56.2 percent.

The impasse could force other teams to cut big-name players, such as guard Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs and linebacker Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The talks, which have been on and off during the past couple of weeks, are complicated by the ongoing dispute between large-market and small-market teams over the sharing of ancillary revenues like stadium seat licenses, luxury suites and local advertising.

Upshaw has maintained that the owners have to solve that dispute before they can come to an agreement with his union.

If the sides can’t agree on a deal by next March, there would be no salary cap in 2007, and players couldn’t become unrestricted free agents until after six seasons as opposed to the current four.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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