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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins.
The Redskins made their first signing of the free agent period when they inked Baltimore Ravens' center Casey Rabach to a five-year contract.
The signing continued a couple of trends for the Redskins in free agency. First of all, they struck quickly, agreeing to terms with Rabach about two and a half hours in to the signing period. From ESPN.com:
The team also got an early start on other team's free agents, reaching agreement with center Casey Rabach.The other continued trend is that Rabach is 27 and entering the what should be the prime of his career. Most of the Redskins' recent free agent signings have been of players within a year or two of this age.
Rabach, an unrestricted free agent widely regarded as the top center in the veteran pool, agreed to a multi-year contract early Wednesday morning, only a few hours after the start of the 2005 signing period. It marked the third year in a row that Redskins owner Dan Snyder signed at least one player on the opening day of free agency.
The trend that didn't continue, however, is the Redskins' strategy of putting their free agent spendin sprees on the equivalent of a high-interest credit card, spending for items now that they will have to pay dearly for later. While the reports of the Redskins facing the dreaded "cap hell" in 2006 and beyond are not entirely correct, they have nevertheless had a tendency to minimize the first-year cap hit in recent free agent contracts. They have done this by giving a large signing bonus, the cap impact of which is spread out over the life of the deal, and a minimal salary in the first year of the deal. This has allowed the team to add more free agent veterans than their cap room in a given year would seem to allow.
The Rabach signing, however, is different. It seems that the Redskins, at least in this particular deal, have decided to put a little more up front, make a larger down payment if you will, in order to minimize the cap hit of the contract in later years. From the same ESPN.com article:
Rabach's contract has a void for the fifth season and also includes a $2.5 million signing bonus and a $2 million roster, which will be guaranteed, according to ClaytonForget about the voidable fifth year, which is not unusual. What is different is the $2.5 million signing bonus and the $2 million guarantted roster bonus. That's essentially a $4.5 million signing bonus, which is what other media outlets reported. But there's a distinction here with a big difference.
A straight signing bonus of $4.5 million would be prorated over the life on the contract, meaning that it would cost the Redskins $900,000 against the cap for each of the next five seasons. By splitting the bonus into signing and roster they way they did, though, the Redskins will have to eat the $2 million roster bonus this year. But that will leave just $2.5 million, or $500,000 a year, to be prorated.
The exact details of the contract have yet to come out so these numbers are just reasonable estimates based on the assumption--a pretty safe one, I'm told--that the guaranteed roster bonus is in the first year of the deal. The cap experts I communicate with have said that it wouldn't make sense to do the deal any other way, and it explains the report of the $4.5 million signing bonus.
In short, the Redskins did the opposite of what they've been doing; they paid more against the cap now to save more later.
To be sure, this is just one contract and it does not mean that there's a new trend here. But it seems that the Redskins have utilized one more way to manipulate the cap to fit their particular needs.