- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

In his rise from quarterbacks coach in Seattle to head coach in Washington, Jim Zorn has inherited the franchise’s perennial salary cap headaches.

As expected, Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley’s $11 million roster bonus was shifted to pro-rated money yesterday, saving the Redskins $9.1 million.

However, with the deadline to reach the $116 million cap two weeks away, the Redskins are still about $7.5 million in the red. The Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts, both barely over the cap, are the only other teams that will have to rework a contract or cut a player to get below $116 million by Feb. 29.

Of course, the Redskins go through this every offseason, but it’s a whole new world for Zorn.

  • Redskins 360:On to the offseason

  • Defensive end Andre Carter (reducing his cap number from $4.07 million to $2.8 million), receiver Antwaan Randle El (from $4.15 million to $2.7 million) and guard Randy Thomas ($8 million to $4.15 million) have reworked their deals since the end of the season with agreements that shift money to future seasons while adding a voidable final year in each contract.

    “It was no big deal,” Carter said. “The money and the years stay the same.”

    If Zorn agrees with former coach Joe Gibbs about Brandon Lloyd, the unproductive receiver will be cut, saving $2.4 million.

    That still leaves more than $5 million to trim just to get to the cap, let alone have money to make a play for such high-priced, Pro Bowl-level free agents as New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel — if the Redskins decide that holdover Shawn Springs isn’t worth $7.5 million at 33 — and Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.

    Springs, who declined to restructure his contract last year, has more leverage than offensive tackle Jon Jansen or defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin since he rebounded from an injury-riddled 2006 to have a strong 2007 season and because fellow corner Carlos Rogers isn’t expected back until perhaps October as he recovers from reconstructive knee surgery.

    The Redskins tried to trade last offseason for Briggs, a rookie in 2003 under then Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who now holds that job in Washington. Last year’s weakside starter, Rocky McIntosh, blew out a knee in December but should be ready by July. Strongside starter Marcus Washington is 30 and starting to break down, which also could lead to interest in Briggs.

    Mark Brunell, Washington’s starting quarterback for most of 2004, 2005 and 2006, was third-string last year and can void his contract. However, with Todd Collins, who finished last year as the starter in place of injured Jason Campbell, likely to follow mentor Al Saunders out of Washington, Brunell’s value to the Redskins has increased. Brunell, who will turn 38 in September, won’t return at his scheduled $6.5 million but could earn a third to a half of that if Zorn can’t find a veteran with more experience in the West Coast offense.

    All of that still leaves seven starters with unwieldy cap numbers of more than $5 million each.

    “I have no problem listening if they want to talk about restructuring my contract as long as it doesn’t hurt me financially,” said 32-year-old Jansen, who missed all but 11 plays because of injuries during two of the past four seasons.

    Jansen is due to make $7.7 million. Griffin ($6.2 million), whose production decreased in recent years, is also willing to renegotiate at age 30 with young players Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston having proved starter-worthy.

    The other very expensive Redskins are running back Clinton Portis ($8.4 million), five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels ($8.2 million), Washington ($6.5 million) and receiver Santana Moss ($5.8 million), who was hamstrung by injuries the last two seasons.

    Moss’ role as the No. 1 receiver would change if owner Dan Snyder decides to pursue a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals for unhappy Pro Bowl wideout Chad Johnson, who has said he wants to play for the Redskins. Johnson’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, represents five Redskins and works well with Snyder, but the Bengals aren’t inclined to accommodate him with a trade.

    Washington (2004) and Moss (2005) were Pro Bowl picks in their Redskins debuts, and Portis should move into second place behind Hall of Famer John Riggins on the team’s all-time rushing list in 2008.

    Aside from Collins, Redskins who will become unrestricted free agents Feb. 29 include: kick returner Rock Cartwright; punter Derrick Frost; Pro Bowl snapper Ethan Albright; offensive lineman Jason Fabini (who started 13 games in place of Thomas) and linebacker Randall Godfrey (who started six games when Washington and McIntosh were hurt).

    Also due to hit the market are nickel safety Pierson Prioleau; reserve receivers Reche Caldwell and Keenan McCardell; little-used defensive backs David Macklin and Omar Stoutmire; backup offensive linemen Rick DeMulling and Mike Pucillo; reserve tight end Brian Kozlowski and backup defensive lineman Ryan Boschetti.

    Note — Sherman Smith, who has been offered the offensive coordinator’s job, was supposed to meet with his boss, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, yesterday. However, that meeting was postponed until today.


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