- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

LaVar Arrington’s desire for a fresh start has created $4.5 million in salary cap space for the Washington Redskins.

A source familiar with the Redskins’ salary cap situation said yesterday that Arrington’s release and the restructured contracts of at least 12 veterans makes it possible that only a couple players — far from the purge many projected — would need to be cut if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t struck and the 2006 cap remains at $94.5 million.

If the new CBA is approved today in Dallas by the league’s owners, the new salary cap will be in the $105 million to $110 million range. That would give the Redskins some flexibility to pursue free agents, but how much is not known because a majority of the restructured deals are contingent on there not being a new CBA.

Coach Joe Gibbs stressed the Redskins want a new CBA, mainly because a higher cap would not force them to gut their depth.

“If we go into free agency without a collective bargaining agreement, I’d say very few teams would be active,” Gibbs said. “If you have a CBA, I think a lot of teams will be competing for players.”

Arrington’s departure may have helped the Redskins’ money situation, but created a need at weak-side linebacker.

Arrington started 67 games in six seasons with the Redskins, recording 467 tackles, 221/2 sacks and 11 forced fumbles. He was also, safety Ryan Clark said, “the face of the Redskins for a long time and the guy they put a lot of pressure on to carry out that role. It’s going to look a lot different around here. The fans are going to have to get a lot of new jerseys. It’s sad, but it’s part of the business.”

Said middle linebacker Lemar Marshall: “His presence will be missed, it truly will be.”

The Redskins have two in-house replacements: Chris Clemons, 24, who replaced Arrington on third down late in the season, and Marshall, 29, who started in place of Arrington in 2005 but moved to middle linebacker last year and made 132 tackles.

“I would prefer to stay [at middle linebacker], but if I go to the weak-side, that would be fine, too,” Marshall said. “It depends on what they want.”

Clemons is a restricted free agent, but hasn’t been tendered by the Redskins. If he’s not tendered by tomorrow night, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

Veteran Warrick Holdman, who started for the Redskins at weak-side linebacker during the first half of the season, is also a free agent.

The free agent crop of linebackers is underwhelming. The top outside linebackers on the market will be Carolina’s Will Witherspoon and San Francisco’s Julian Peterson. Indianapolis’ Cato June is a restricted free agent. Middle linebackers available — if the Redskins move Marshall outside — are Minnesota’s Sam Cowart, Baltimore’s Tommy Polley, Carolina’s Brandon Short and former Redskins player Derek Smith, who played for San Francisco last season.

Marshall and Clark thought Arrington would return to the Redskins, particularly after he worked his way back into the starting lineup at midseason. He finished with 53 tackles.

“He played very well,” Clark said. “You can’t deny his talent at all. He was getting used to playing in [assistant head coach-defense] Gregg Williams’ system.”

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