First though, lets get some facts and assumptions on the table up front.
- The Redskins will inherit $3.6m in dead cap money (from players cut after June 1, 2005) that will count against the 2006 cap
- The Skins currently have 44 contracted players, one ERFA and one RFA for 2006 at a current cap number of $109.6m – assuming all option bonuses due in 2006 are taken up. (see attached table)
- Recent media articles on the NFL wide salary cap number for 2006 are continuing to assume that the NFL will increase in the cap into the $95m range
- Similarly, recent media articles are also continuing to report that the NFL owners are no closer to resolving the major issue of revenue sharing (among other issues) that is preventing a new or extended Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) from materialising, making it a real possibility that no new agreement will be in place before the 2006 season commences.
- The Redskins will have 6 picks in the 2006 National College Draft (starting from round 2).
- Among the 11 players who will be UFA's in 2006 are some key players and/or good performers in 2005 - S Ryan Clark, RB Rock Cartwright, DE Demetric Evans, LB Khary Campbell, LS Ethan Albright and TE Robert Royal.
- One other player situation also needs noting - Derrick Dockery can opt out of the final year of his contract and become an RFA in 2006.
So at this point in time the team would be looking at a 2006 cap figure of around $113.2m based on 46 players and the dead cap inherited from 2005 compared to an anticipated NFL cap figure of around $95m.
The reality that a new CBA or an extension of the current CBA will not occur prior to the 2006 league year has a number of impacts on the 2006 salary cap of teams. These impacts range from not being able to spread out any guaranteed portion of player contracts further than 2009 to eliminating the post June 1 cap relief that teams can seek by releasing players and having the unallocated portions of the guaranteed money spread over two years.
Washington currently has 10 players under contract that are owed roster bonuses in 2006, totalling $20.7m. Around $20.2m of these roster bonuses can be guaranteed before they are due which will have the effect of spreading out the cap affect evenly across the remaining life of the players contract or to the maximum years allowed under the CBA, which assuming the CBA will not be extended/renewed before the 2006 season commences, will mean they will only count 5.2m in 2006 – a cap saving of $15m. The savings would be greater (another $1m saved) if the CBA was renewed/extended before these bonuses are guaranteed, but that's looking increasingly unlikely.
This delay in reaching a new agreement has even more direct implications for the Redskins. As I outlined in my last article, the bogus LTBE incentives in the contracts of Samuels, Wynn, Patten and Rabach, totalling $6.125m in 2006 are tied to the outcome of CBA negotiations. If, as we are assuming, the CBA isn't extended/renewed by the time the 2006 league year kicks in, these incentives will continue to count against the cap in 2006.
Taking these two impacts into account the Skins cap figure will be in the vicinity of $98m – still $3m above the NFL assumed cap but still a manageable situation. So what else could be done to create additional cap space?
1. Contract restructuring - extending contracts or converting base salary to bonus money to reduce the affect on cap in 2006 – and there are a number of candidates here with high base salaries. In fact 16 players have base salaries ranging from $1m to $4m and totalling $28m. The team could also renegotiate the contracts of those players with the bogus LTBE incentives to push them back into 2007.
2. Releasing/trading high priced players who are no longer starters – Patrick Ramsey would be the most obvious candidate for trade and that would result in a $1.7m saving against the cap. Some candidates for release would be Matt Bowen ($2.0m saving), Walt Harris ($2.0m saving), and Cory Raymer ($0.9m).
3. Other higher priced experienced players who's starter or key backup positions could be replaced with either more cost effective young players or veterans counting only veteran minimum salaries. These moves could also be made to save money to upgrade some starting positions (eg. DE)
A combination of these moves could save the Redskins anything up to around $15m which could be used to sign players in positions of most need (ie. DE and WR), resign key free agents (ie. Ryan Clark), sign or draft key low cost replacements at positions requiring depth.
The Redskins cap experts are also very creative in constructing contracts for free agent acquisitions that can reduce the cap impact in a tight year like 2006 but overall pay the players their worth. The Santana Moss contract last offseason was a prime example of this where a low signing bonus was agreed to in return for a higher option bonus the following year. Given the constraints of spreading out guaranteed money this, and other creative contract language in areas like Unlikely To Be Earned (UTBE) incentives, will be used even more frequently in 2006 to juggle player payments unless the CBA is renewed/extended. The prospect of an uncapped year in 2007 could see team owners and administrators offer even more second year money to player to get them to "play ball" on contracts in 2006.
So while on the surface the Redskins appear to be in cap hell, some closer analysis of the situation reveals that Washington is in fairly good shape cap wise for 2006.