A quick look forward to Salary Cap 2005
Now that the 2004 roster is fairly static, it's a pertinent time to take a preliminary look at next year's salary cap situation. Some of the big questions for 2005 surround rejuvenated left offensive tackle Chris Samuels and his soon to be expiring contract, and key defensive free agents like Fred Smoot, Antonio Pierce and Joe Savale'a.
First though, we have to remember one crucial point about the 2004 salary cap. The Skins are currently $2.7m under the cap this year. This gives them some scope to either:
• Use the space to sign e or two of their upcoming free agents (like Smoot or Pierce), or
• Use the league rule that enables teams to restructure player contracts to build in Likely To Be Earned (LTBE) incentive clauses for 2004, but are most likely not to be earned, the result being a cap credit is applied to next years cap (next years team salary cap limit is increased above the NFL limit by the amounts of those cap credits).
So when considering the 2005 cap, keep these possibilities in mind.
As far as the 2005 cap is concerned, the NFL salary cap limit in 2005 is unknown at this stage but it is likely to be in the range of $85.5m - $90m. The Redskins have the following in 2005 at this stage:
• 37 players under contract consuming a cap total of $69.481m – this of course does not include any possible performance incentives or escalators that may be applicable depending on performances in the 2004 season (I have not included backup K Ola Kimrin).
• 7 players who will be Restricted Free Agents (RFA's) – 3 of these draw compensation if signed by another team, the other 4 do not draw compensation unless they are tendered at the middle or high tender level which is almost certain not to occur.
The chart below breaks down the 2005 cap numbers by the players under contract and lists the RFA's. It also shows the current dead cap situation and looks at where the Skins are in comparison to the conservative NFL cap position of $85.5m. This situation would leave the Skins some pocket change short of being $9.0m below the cap but before the following considerations :
1. Chris Samuels – he can void the final year on his contract at the end of the 2004 season meaning that the 2005 season would be his last in the current contract. This will accelerate $2.2m currently allocated to the 2006 year into the 2005 cap (so add that to the figures in the chart below). Easy fixed? Negotiate a new long term deal to keep him in DC? Well, given the way Samuels has started the 2004 season he'll be commanding a huge contract with a signing bonus of around $20m. We will have to find a way to get this into the cap.
2. Key Young Players Who Will Be Unrestricted Free Agents – Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce are showing that they have what it takes to be very good players in the NFL but both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2004 season. Both could choose to test the FA market if allowed to drift through to the end of 2004. The Skins would be wise to look at signing these guys to contract extensions now with some of that 2004 cap space.
3. Other Free Agents – Safety Andre Lott, who has improved markedly this season, is a restricted free agent in 2005 who draws only 5th round compensation. Kenyetta Jones, Ron Warner, long snapper Ethan Albright and all of the key backup TE's are UFA's at seasons end.
4. Room to Sign Draft Picks – we will have draft picks in rounds 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 in the 2005 NFL draft.
5. Unknown Incentives and Escalators.
|Player||Pos||2005 Base Salary||2005
|2005 LTE Perf Inct||2005 Total
|1||Robert Royal||TE||RFA-5th Round Comp|
|2||Andre Lott||S||RFA-5th Round Comp|
|3||Rock Cartwright||RB||RFA-7th Round Comp|
|4||John Simon||RB||RFA-No Comp|
|5||Lemar Marshall||LB||RFA-No Comp|
|6||Demetric Evans||DE||RFA-No Comp|
|7||Tim Hasselbeck||QB||RFA-No Comp|
|2005 Dead Cap:||David Fiore||OG||0.750|
|Projected 2005 Cap:||85.500|
So that's the situation as it stands for 2005 right now. Of course I will revisit this situation at the end of the 2004 season when we will have a few more answers and clues to next year.