We are one week away from the arbitration hearing concerning the Redskins and Cowboys salary cap penalties. Albert Breer of NFL.com reported why some around the league in addition to the Giants John Mara (who was born naked into the world and had to inherit everything he has) are upset with the fact that the two teams treated the uncapped year like, well, an uncapped year.The anger at the two penalized teams apparently stems from the fact that franchise tag salaries are based on the average of the top five salaries and bonuses at the position. The large bonus payments the Redskins and Cowboys paid to certain members of their respective teams had an inflationary effect on the franchise player salaries.The payment of a large salary to wide receiver Miles Austin in the first year of his redone deal apparently upset the Chargers organization. Austins big salary pushed up the franchise tag for the wide receiver position from what would have been about 9.5 million to about 11.3 million. That made it more difficult for San Diego to franchise tag him in 2011 and, because a player who is franchised for a second straight year gets 120 percent of his previous years salary.The Redskins 21 million payment to Albert Haynesworth caused the franchise tag at defensive tackle to jump from around 7 million to 12.5 million. That cost the Ravens extra money when they tagged Haloti Ngata and the Dolphins had to shell out more to franchise nose tackle Paul Soliai.Perhaps some teams do have a right to be upset. However, their anger is misdirected.The uncapped year, which has been built in to the last year of every CBA since the advent of the salary cap in the early 1990s, is among the provisions in the last year of the CBA that are supposed to incentivize the two sides to never enter the last year of the CBA.The lack of both a salary cap and floor, the extension of experience needed to become an unrestricted free agent from four to six years, and other clauses were supposed to push the two sides to the table to get a new deal hammered out.But the owners of the Chargers, Ravens, and Dolphins, along with every other NFL owner, voted to opt out of the CBA negotiated in 2006 early. And then months and months passed and they didnt even sit down for a serious negotiating session with the players. The lockout took effect soon after the CBA expired.The owners wanted the lockout. They therefore knew that they would have to accept the uncapped and unfloored year and the consequences, including a potential increase in franchise tags salaries, that could result.So they got their lockout. They got what seems to be a fairly favorable settlement with what is projected to be a four-year run with a flat salary cap. They want these gains without needing to drop a few million here and a few million there due to increases in the franchise tag that should have been fully expected following an uncapped year.In short, they got the upside of opting out of the CBA early, playing hardball, letting the CBA expire, and locking the players out. They had to deal with some of the inevitable downside to that strategy and they are upset about it.Nobody really knows what criteria arbitrator Stephen Burbank will use to arrive at his decision but it should be based on the letter of the law in the CBA. A few million dollars on franchise tags here and there should not be a factor.Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.
RICHMOND—Redskins training camp gets underway tomorrow here at the Bon Secours Training Center. The team has high expectations after winning the NFC East last year. The priorities have shifted since Jay Gruden took over as the head coach in 2014.
“I want to make sure we make the right decisions on players, No. 1,” he said during a press conference during his first training camp. “We have to make sure we get a good look at all the young guys, all the free agents, all the undrafted free agents, the draft picks, the veteran free agents, and make sure when we make our final cut-down we make the right choices and hopefully these players will make it very difficult on us in making those decisions.”
That all sounds great but what about winning games? Where was that in the pecking order or priorities? The young guys and undrafted free agents can help you out here and there. But if you miss on a couple of them it’s not going to kill you. Failure to make preparing to win games during the coming season the top priority will kill you. The Redskins went 4-12.
Gruden was singing a different tune when he was asked what the priorities were as the team started camp a year ago.
“We’re trying to improve as a football team, number one,” he said near the start of training camp in 2015. “That’s all we’re trying to do every day is improve a certain area of our game. Then, we’re also trying to critique our players and find out who our best 53 are.”
So the emphasis on improving the team seemed to work as the Redskins went 9-7 and were surprise NFC East winners.
Sure, there’s an element of coach speak in all of this. But don’t underestimate the importance of what the head coach is focused on. If the coaches spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings trying to sort out the last half dozen players on the roster there is less time to prepare the starters for Week 1 and beyond.
I expect Gruden to order his priorities the same way this year. Focusing on the play at the top of the roster will bear more fruit that worrying about which fifth cornerback or tenth offensive lineman to keep.
In his first time speaking out since officially being franchise tagged on July 15, Kirk Cousins confirmed what most who followed his negotiations thought to be true: He and the Redskins weren't exactly on the same page.
"I don't think we really did," the quarterback said on 106.7 The Fan's Grant & Danny show Wednesday when asked if the two sides ever got close to a deal. As he talked more about his contract situation, however, he made it clear that he's harboring no hard feelings against his team despite the fact he didn't receive a new extension.
"I always said going back to the end of last season that I wanted to play where I’m wanted," Cousins explained. "The franchise tag showed that I am wanted. Now, maybe not beyond this year, but I am wanted."
That relaxed outlook is something the 27-year-old has maintained all offseason. He pointed out that a few other players around the league were tagged as well, and thinks it's something that can easily be handled in the future. But don't let Cousins' steady demeanor totally fool you.
He's still going to do whatever he can to show his doubters that he's deserving of a long-term deal — and the massive dollar amount that'll come with it.
"I feel good about having this one season to prove myself and see what I can do," he said. "I think I do relish the opportunity to prove to people I’m capable of playing well and being here for a long time."
The end of that quote makes it sound like Cousins does still envision a future in Washington. His performance in 2016 will go a long way in determining whether that feeling is mutual.
The funeral for Zema Williams, the Redskins superfan better known to thousands as Chief Zee, is being held on Wednesday in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Some photos from the services show that plenty of the team's supporters are attending in order to say goodbye to one of its most dedicated, but another touching picture proves at least one player is thinking of Williams, too.
Santana Moss, who wore the Burgundy and Gold for a decade and posted this tribute to Williams after he died last week, sent along a bouquet of flowers, a photo and a message to the church where the funeral is being held, all of which ended up next to the icon's casket:
This bouquet of flowers next to Chief Zee's casket sent by former Redskins player Santana Moss. pic.twitter.com/suGWDupT95— John Gonzalez (@ABC7John) July 27, 2016
"Rest in paradise Chief Zee," the note reads. "With Love, Santana Moss & Family." The accompanying picture is from the famous Redskins-Cowboys game in 2005, where Moss caught two long touchdowns in the fourth quarter to stun Dallas in their own stadium.