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Cap-tastrophe?

Cap-tastrophe?

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

Over the weekend, two almost identical articles by Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline and Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com came to almost identical conclusions in regards to the Redskins salary cap situation. They both claimed to have talked to a trio of cap experts from various places and these experts told them that the Redskins were in a cap situation that was so untenable that they may be forced to make drastic cuts to get under the cap. The Redskins, they say, may be forced to play the 2006 season with 15-20 rookies making the minimum in order to get in compliance with the cap rules. There would have to be an unprecedented bloodbath in regards to the roster.

As those two writers are notorious for their frequent anti-Redskins biases, their pieces were immediately met with derision from all around Redskins nation. “There they go again,” was the common refrain.

Well, this observer, accused of being a homer far more often than he’s called anti-Redskins, is here to tell you that, as painful as it may be to say it, what Pete and Lenny said is by and large true. If there is no extension of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) before the free agency period begins on March 3, the Redskins will officially take up residence in the dreaded cap hell. The Redskins took a gamble and, as of right now, it looks as though they may well lose it.

The gamble they took was to insert roster bonuses into the contracts signed by Marcus Washington, Clinton Portis, and others. Since these bonuses are not guaranteed, they all count towards the 2006 salary cap, pushing it up to a number that is some $20 million over the limit, which will likely come in at $95 million.

The Redskins had to structure those deals in that way in order to make them acceptable under the current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The gamble that they took was that the CBA would be extended and revised before the ’06 free agency season began. That would allow them to guarantee the roster bonuses for those players, meaning that they could spread out the impact over the life of the contract. That would, for example, lower Shawn Springs’ cap number by some $2.3 million, Portis’ by $2.25 million. The cap savings by this accounting procedure would total $15 million. The rest of the overage could easily be handled by cutting some fringe players and restructuring some other contracts.

It was a reasonable gamble at the time the contracts were drawn up. The NFL and the NFLPA have never before gone to the brink of an uncapped year, which is what 2007 would be under the current CBA, before extending the agreement. However, we find ourselves about 10 days before free agency starts and a CBA extension does not appear to be imminent. In Sunday’s Washington Post an NFLPA representative said that the chances of reaching a deal were not very good. That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen or won’t happen. It means that every minute that passes without a new agreement pushes the Redskins a minute closer to entering cap hell.

Without a CBA extension the Redskins will need some very creative measures, some very painful decisions and/or some unprecedented cooperation by many players to get under the cap. There will be an article here Tuesday on WarpathInsiders.com that will look at some creative options. Right now, though, let’s focus on the latter two.

One of the problems with cutting players is that with the contracts structured as they are and the fact that most of the contracts are pretty new, there isn’t much money to be saved in releasing a lot of players with big camp numbers. For example, LaVar Arrington counts about $12 million towards the ’06 cap, but releasing him would result in a slightly higher cap charge than that because of uncharged money already paid to him. It’s like being upside down on a car loan, when the car is worth less than the payoff amount. Cutting Arrington would the put Redskins further away from the goal of being able to get under the cap. The same is true of such players who might be considered expendable in a crisis such as Mark Brunell and Davis Patten.

Now, to be sure, there are players that the team could release that actually could save money. Some of these players are ones that the Redskins would rather not cut such as Marcus Washington, Ladell Betts, Jon Jansen and Joe Salave’a. However, the Redskins could cut those four plus Taylor Jacobs, Renaldo Wynn, Pierson Prioleau, Philip Daniels, James Thrash, Cory Raymer, John Hall, Patrick Ramsey, Walt Harris, and Matt Bowen and still be about $8 million shy of being able to make it under the cap.

To realize the maximum cap savings, which are obviously necessary, these players would have to be replaced with rookies earning the minimum salary. Thus the “15-20 rookies” alluded to by Prisco and Pasquerelli.

The Redskins will not release all of the players on the list above. To make up the difference and to clear the remaining cap space they will have to restructure some contracts and, in the process, ask some players to give back real money.

This doesn’t happen very often. Usually when you hear about a player redoing his contract to help the team create cap room he doesn’t give up a dime. It’s usually just a matter of deferring something or guaranteeing all or part of a salary to spread out the cap hit. The player is not, as many believe, “taking one for the team” when he cooperates in such restructurings.

But it appears that if the Redskins are going to be able to scrape under the cap without losing some key players in the prime of their careers some players are going to have to take a pay cut, plain and simple. And if they don’t, well, the Redskins will enter another level of hell altogether.

Again, more on that in an article here on Tuesday. The point here is to tell you that, without a CBA extension, Chicken Little (and Pete and Lenny) will be right. The sky will be falling. A whole slew of players that have been solid contributors will be gone. There will be so many young players on the roster that the team mascot will have to be changed to Barney. The Redskins won’t be able to afford any free agents; heck, they won’t be able to afford cab fare for a free agent from Dulles to Redskins Park.

There is the possibility that a CBA extension will get done and none of this will have to happen. It’s very difficult to assess the chances of that happening; it may not look good now but a breakthrough in the negotiations could occur at any time. But if it doesn’t, well, things will get ugly. If you’re a Redskins fan, keep your fingers crossed, hang a horseshoe in a appropriate spot, be on the lookout for four-leaf clovers, or whatever you do to try to bring on good luck. This isn’t typical media anti-Redskins spin.

It’s the real thing.

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Redskins 2017 training camp preview—offense

Redskins 2017 training camp preview—offense

RICHMOND—The Redskins will assemble here tomorrow to get ready to get ready for the 2017 season. There are plenty of position competitions and other storylines. Here is a look at what we at CSN will be paying attention to, starting with the offense.

Kiss Cousins goodbye?

As everyone reading this knows, the Redskins quarterback did not agree to a long-term contract by the deadline last week and he will play out the season on the franchise tag. The situation will have a major impact next spring as free agency approaches but that’s to be sorted out in 2018. The question here is whether Cousins’ contract status will affect what takes place here in Richmond and as the season unfolds starting in September.

Some believe that it will be a major storyline and that it will be a distraction with media asking lots of questions and the possibility that Cousins’ thoughts will drift towards next year and his potential free agency.

RELATED: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

However, Cousins was in a similar position last year, when he played on the franchise tag for the first time. There was a flurry of questions at the start of training camp, Cousins answered them, and then they moved on. The rule that prohibits contract negotiations with a tagged player during the season had its intended effect. There was no buzz about the situation until the season was over.

This year the situation is ratcheted up a bit because of the high cost of the tags available to the Redskins next year. But Cousins is very good at deflecting questions about his contract status and he should be able to handle the scrutiny.

Changes at wide receiver

No team had ever lost two 1,000-yard receivers in the same offseason until the Redskins saw both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson depart as free agents in March. It means that Josh Doctson steps into a featured role and Terrelle Pryor will be expected to produce as well as he did in Cleveland last year, if not better.

The changes also mean that Jamison Crowder is likely to see more targets and holdovers Maurice Harris and Ryan Grant could see increased roles. It all will be sorted out in training camp starting on Thursday.

Further down the depth chart, can sixth-round rookie Robert Davis get up to speed soon enough to justify a roster spot? And can veteran Brian Quick rebound from some shaky offseason practices to claim a slot on the 53?

Two-back attack?

Last year Rob Kelley worked his way up from being an overlooked, undrafted free agent rookie to being the starting running back. This year, Samaje Perine comes in as a fourth-round pick with an eye on taking the job away from Kelley.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, 11-20

It is likely that Kelley, who is a favorite of Jay Gruden’s, will be the Week 1 starter. Still, it would not be surprising if Perine led the team in carries and rushing yards in several games as the season unfolds, perhaps more.

Meanwhile, Mack Brown and Keith Marshall (if he can stay healthy) will compete for the fourth running back job—if the team decides to keep that many. They only kept three coming out of camp last year.

O-line stability

The same five starters will line up for the second year in a row. There’s really nothing to see here unless Arie Kouandjio can make a big push and move into Shawn Lauvao’s spot at left guard.

There is some intrigue about the backup center spot. If rookie Chase Roullier can’t get up to speed they may have to look at the waiver wire.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

Redskins Playbook: 5 forgotten names to remember for training camp

When the Redskins open training camp in Richmond on Thursday, fans will line up to get autographs from Kirk Cousins, Josh Norman and Jordan Reed. Plenty of other players will excite the fans too as optimism rules the first few days of practice in July and August. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

There are other players that fans probably won't scream their names, but who could play a role or fight for a roster spot this fall. Winning in the NFL is almost nearly as dependent on the final 10 players on the roster as it is the first five. Depth is key, and here are a few players that fans might have forgotten about. 

  • RB Keith Marshall - The speedster out of Georgia has a wildly impressive resume - on paper - but just can't stay healthy. In college he started ahead of Todd Gurley for a time, now considered one of the best RBs in the NFL for the Rams. Marshall landed on the injured reserve last year as a rookie but looked healthy and capable at Redskins Park this offseason during OTAs and minicamp. The running back position looks quite full, but if Marshall can show his elite speed and make it through four preseason games, he just might push Mack Brown for a roster spot. 
  • LB Martrell Spaight - A tackling machine in college at Arkansas, Spaight missed most of his rookie season in 2015 before appearing in 14 games last season. Bad luck struck again, and he finished the year on the IR. With the addition of Zach Brown to the interior linebackers, Spaight might have a tough battle for a roster spot. Will Compton, Mason Foster and Brown all seem certain to make the team. Spaight could also start the year on the PUP list, which might be the surest way to stay on the Redskins.
  • LB Chris Carter - Signed as a free agent this year, the journeyman Carter has played for six teams in six years and looks poised to play the special teams role that Terence Garvin took on last year. If Carter makes the roster, that means trouble for Spaight. 
  • DL Anthony Lanier - An undrafted rookie in 2016 that didn't see much game action, Lanier has really impressed coaches with his work ethic this offseason. He has great size at 6-foot-6 and added about 20 pounds of muscle since the season ended, which should allow him the strength to handle the trenches. Lanier could be a sneaky important player this fall for Washington. 
  • S Will Blackmon - D.J. Swearinger and Su'a Cravens look to be the starting safeties for the Redskins in 2017. Swearinger has a proven track record in the NFL secondary, Cravens does not, but showed the ability to do so in college at USC. After those two, and with DeAngelo Hall on the PUP list, the Redskins lack much depth or experience in the defensive backfield. That's where Blackmon should help. A versatile veteran, Blackmon has the speed to keep up with most wideouts and is one of the more cerebral players on the defense. 

Bonus: RB Matt Jones - He might want off the Redskins roster, but that hasn't happened yet. If the team sustains any injuries at the running back position, Jones' fortunes could change quickly. 

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