LaVar Arrington: The Cost of Doing Business

With LaVar Arrington languishing on the bench, the question comes up--what to do with him? We don't know what Joe Gibbs and company will decide, but our resident capologist does know the cap implications of all of the possible angles.

Many Redskins fans and media people are asking the same question "Given that Lavar Arrington is hardly being used by Gregg Williams, what will become of him in 2006". If the Redskins indeed believe that Arrington doesn't fit into the defensive structure, and believe he would be better off elsewhere next season then the two options are to trade him or release him. So what are the cap implications of those options and the issues that are related to the current state of CBA negotiations?

Just some background first. Arrington's current contract with the Skins runs through 2011, and his cap hit for next year (if he stays with the team) is currently shown as $12.046 million. That figure includes the full $6.5 million roster bonus due to him, which as I've said in my previous cap articles would get guaranteed if he stayed on before its due thus spreading it out over either the length of the contract or to 2009 depending on the state of CBA negotiations. In the worst-case scenario, if the CBA is not extended/renewed by the time the roster bonus is due, Arrington's cap number next year would be $7.171 million after the roster bonus is guaranteed.

Also of note is the result of the recent arbitration hearing into the other "disputed $6.5 million bonus figure". An agreement was reached to insert an amendment to Arrington's contract stating that if he makes the Pro Bowl two of the next four seasons he would be allowed to void his contract and become a free agent (after 2008). The Redskins would then have the option of paying him a $3.250 million bonus to keep him. In addition, Arrington could earn $1.6 million more if he participates in 98 percent of special-teams plays, which is highly unlikely.

To trade Arrington next offseason - before his $6.5 million roster bonus falls due - would cost the Skins $12.545 million in dead cap money in 2006 (from the accelerated signing/restructure bonuses). This would indeed be a huge commitment of dead money to the salary cap – and an increase of nearly $5 million in net cap terms. A number of factors would govern if the Redskins could afford this including the NFL salary cap for 2006, any cap credits gained from 2005, the ability to restructure contracts and whether there are many major free agent needs in 2006.

Releasing Arrington outright would need to be done before his roster bonus is due to minimise the cap damage so it would have the same cap implications as trading him but of course the Redskins get nothing in compensation.

So are there any other options available to Washington that would minimize the cap damage? There are three possibilities, the first option is a long shot, and the second option would require a new or extended CBA agreement to be in place. Both of these options would require Lavar's cooperation. The third option is to keep Arrington around until after the 2006 season.

The long shot is that Arrington would agree to pay back or forego instalments as part of the $11.3 million option bonus he received last year as part of his last contract restructuring in 2003. As was seen with the Laveranues Coles situation, the odds of a player paying back bonus money – even for freedom to sign a new contract elsewhere either as a free agent or through a trade – are about as great as the 49ers winning this years Super Bowl and would trigger some intervention from the NFLPA.

The second option involves the Redskins striking an agreement with Arrington to push back his roster bonus until after June 1 next year in exchange for agreeing to release him on June 1 - thus spreading the accelerated cap hit over two years ($5.096 million in 2006, $7.449 million in 2007). This would allow Arrington to sign with another team and get another signing bonus. However, there is one hitch to this option. The CBA must be extended or renewed first. Why?

Unless the CBA is extended/renewed NFL teams cannot spread cap hits on accelerated bonuses into an uncapped year (which is 2007 under the current CBA). Here is the relevant section of the current CBA agreement that deals with acceleration of guaranteed bonuses :

(ii) Acceleration (of prorated bonuses).

(1) For any player removed from the Team's roster on or before June 1, any unamortized signing bonus amounts will be included in Team Salary for such League Year. If such acceleration puts a Team over the Salary Cap, the Team will have seven days to conform with the Salary Cap, but may not sign any players until there is Room to do so under the Salary Cap.

(2) For any player removed from the Team's roster after June 1, any unamortized signing bonus amounts for future years will be included fully in Team Salary at the start of the next League Year.

* During any League Year immediately preceding an Uncapped Year, the provisions relating to acceleration of unamortized signing bonuses applicable on or before June 1 of that League Year shall apply during that League Year after June 1.

*Side Letter 11/1/95: Sec. 2

(3) In the event that a player who has had a signing bonus allocated over the years of his Player Contract is traded, or whose Contract is assigned to another team pursuant to the NFL's waiver procedure, then such signing bonus shall be accelerated as in subsection (ii)(1) above and the assignee Team's Team Salary will not include any portion of the signing bonus.

The other point of note is that the majority of Arrington's future earnings under his current contract are based on roster and performance bonuses, so why would he be willing to cooperate in any type of deal to move him? After all he's on a cash cow here in DC. Is the motivation and eagerness to compete on the field a higher priority than earning a bucket load of money being a spot player? If the Redskins release him he can just sign with another team. So why should he do anything?

The third option is to keep Arrington on the roster in 2006, guarantee his roster bonus and then move him in 2007 If the CBA isn't renewed or extended its an uncapped year so the salary cap is no object. If a new CBA were in place the NFL salary cap would be significantly higher and the Redskins cap situation would be significantly healthier to accommodate a dead cap hit of around $11m.

So unless the Redskins get some level cooperation from Arrington, the only way to move him in 2006 is to take the cap medicine next year, and if this is scenario that plays out – like with Coles – getting a player or draft pick compensation for him in a trade would be the best option.


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