For the first time since 2009, the Redskins will experience a normal offseason when it comes to free agency and the salary cap.
In 2010, free agency was altered due to the end of the collective bargaining agreement. There was no salary cap but players could not become free agents until they had completed six years of service. The next year the players were locked out for the spring and most of the summer so free agency and training camp started almost simultaneously in late July.
Every team in the NFL had to deal with those obstacles. But on the eve of the start of the free agency period in 2012, the NFL slapped a $36 million salary cap penalty on the Redskins for treating the uncapped like it was, well, really uncapped. That penalty was split between the 2012 and 2013 seasons at $18 million per season.
With the penalty gone and the regular free agency system in place, the 3-13 Redskins have a good opportunity to add some talent and to start getting things moving in the right direction.
How much cap room will they have to work with? After looking at some official and unofficial sources for cap information, the estimate is that the Redskins will have approximately $28.6 million in cap space to work with in 2013.
A few caveats are necessary here. This estimate is based on a 2014 NFL cap of $127.5 million per team. That is slightly higher than the official estimate of $126.3 million but some reliable reports have said it will be at the higher number. The number will not be finalized until a week or so prior to the start of free agency on March 11.
In addition, not all of the details of the individual player contracts that make up the cap number are known. Some salary escalators may kick in that boost a player’s 2014 compensation and incentives that were earned or not earned in 2013 could hit the 2014 cap. In addition, some adjustments to contracts that were made when the team did some renegotiations and restructures to squeeze more cap room last year may not be reflected in the calculations. None of these factors are likely cause major changes in the cap space available but they are reasons to look at this as an estimate.
How much cap space is $28.6 million in relation to other NFL teams’ spending room? There are four teams with substantially more room than the Redskins—the Raiders ($62.5 million), Jaguars ($55.9 million), Browns ($46.3 million) and Colts ($35.1 million). Three other teams, the Packers, Dolphins, and Bills, have right around the same amount of space as the Redskins. That puts them in the top 25 percent of the league in terms of cap space. After spending the last two years asking players to take pay cuts and scrounging for every cap dollar they could find that is a welcome change at Redskins Park.
The Redskins have the ability to create more salary cap room by releasing some veteran players who don’t have the production to justify their salary cap numbers. Who might they release? We will look at that over the coming week as we break down the cap picture position by position.