Can the Redskins afford to sign DeSean Jackson?
It’s a simple question with a complex answer.
The short answer is yes. Despite the fact that they have about $7 million in cap room left for the 2014 season, they could construct a contract that would meet Jackson’s contract demands, which likely would be something in the $9 to $10 million per year range.
The contract that Bruce Allen and Eric Schaffer could use as a model is the six-year, $54 million deal that the Saints gave safety Jairus Byrd earlier this month. Byrd got an $11 million signing bonus and a 2014 salary of $1.3 million. By prorating the cap hit for the signing bonus out over the first five years of the deal (the maximum allowed), the first-year cap hit comes to a manageable $3.5 million.
Of course the Saints pay for that low cap hit down the line. In fact, next year a guaranteed $6 million roster bonus boots Byrd’s 2015 cap number up to $10.3 million. It’s likely that the Saints have the option to convert that $6 million into signing bonus, which would reduce that cap hit to about $5.8 million. But that would push the cap number in each of the subsequent seasons to well over $10 million and it gets harder and harder to soften the impact.
The primary cap issue that such a deal would cause stems from the fact that the Redskins already have a high-dollar free agent wide receiver in Pierre Garçon. His contract carries cap hits in the neighborhood of $10 million in each of the next three years. Adding another receiver with high cap charges would push their wide receiver spending into somewhat dangerous territory. They already are ninth in the NFL in cap dollars spent on wide receivers. Even a modest cap hit for deal structured like Byrd’s would make them fourth.
That would not necessarily be impossible to manage but it would create a situation where they would have to squeeze spending in other areas.
But it should be noted that the NFL salary cap is expected to go up by roughly $10 million in each of the next two years. That makes it possible to put items like a roster bonus in deals the next couple of years because the increase in the cap will help absorb it.
The bottom line is that the Redskins could “afford” Jackson but there will be opportunity costs to doing so. They would be much less flexible going forward. But you can argue that you maintain flexibility for situations just like this.