You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Posted 9 AM EST 03.05.06
Within 12 hours, we will know whether or not there will be an extension to the NFL collective bargaining agreement. OK, there could be another movement in the deadline, but if there is that will mean that the two sides in the dispute are in agreement on anything remotely resembling a major issue. They might take Monday and part of Tuesday to haggle over what the deductible on the dental plan will be, settle the three thousand dollars they may be apart on the third-year veteran minimum salary, and the like.
So, sometime on Sunday when they either get it done or they don't it will be possible to resume an informed discussion of what the Redskins will do during this offseason. In either case it will be a fun discussion to have.
It's better for the Redskins—and for the NFL—if there is a CBA extension. Never mind the long-term ramifications (plenty of time to go into those after the issue is decided), the simple fact is that the Redskins, who currently have a salary cap figure of about $115 million, will be able to get well under a 2006 salary cap that will be around $105 million. Some simple restructures will get them under the number and trimming a few high-priced spare parts like Matt Bowen and Tom Tupa will give them room to address some needs through free agency.
Clearly, a CBA extension is a win for the Redskins. The alternative, however, isn't exactly a huge loss.
Certainly, in order to get under the $94.5 million cap, the Redskins would have to take more drastic action. They would have to trigger a series of complex restructured contracts that about a half a dozen players have agreed to. More players, including kicker John Hall and nickel back Walt Harris, would have to be jettisoned. It would be difficult to sign any high-priced free agents and even the bargain basement types would have to be chosen carefully. For that matter, it would be hard for the Skins to sign their own free agents including safety Ryan Clark and tight end Robert Royal.
But the major purge of veterans predicted (some would say hoped for) by such national writers as Pete Prisco and Len Pasquarelli apparently will not be taking place. Due to the willingness of players such as Mark Brunell and Shawn Springs to participate in some pretty major reworks of their contracts, the Redskins won't have to cut nearly as many veterans as the cap "experts" that Prisco and Pasquarelli consulted with for their articles thought.
(Before going any further, it has to be acknowledged that some scenarios less dire than those pained by Pete and Lenny but still rather gloomy were presented here in the past week or so. The difference between them and me is, though, that if my article turns out to be dramatically different from reality, I will come out and acknowledge it and examine why I was off base. Pete and Lenny will not.)
In short, if there is no CBA extension we will get to see the Redskins stun the media doubters. It appears that the dreaded cap hell will be averted. And it won't be because the Redskins got lucky, but because they knew what they were doing. They were hoping for the best in terms of a CBA extension, but evidently they were well prepared for the worst. Said Jon Jansen's agent Rick Smith of the organization, "They have a plan and they'll get it done. They weren't desperate. I don't know why there was this big doomsday [outlook] for them. They'll get to where they need to get."
Wow, you mean that Dan Snyder actually had a plan? The temperamental, reckless, wild-spending one actually knew what he was doing? A self-made millionaire actually anticipates what might happen and make contingency plans? Shocking!
Other teams, ones that do not receive the media scrutiny that the Snyder and the Redskins do, are being forced to turn to more desperate moves to try to make the cap. One of them, the Indianapolis Colts, might even try to sue the league to change its interpretation of the rules to get under the cap. This from the Indianapolis Star:
Dan Emerson, the Colts' general counsel, said the team has not ruled out seeking a temporary injunction to Wednesday's decision by Stephen Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Burbank, a special master who arbitrates disputes within the NFL, ruled the Colts could not convert substantial roster bonuses due Manning and Harrison into signing bonuses and prorate them for four years to lower each player's hit against the salary cap.
I think that it's reasonable to assume that Prisco, Pasquarelli, and the rest of the Skins-bashing media out there would be having a field day throwing darts at Snyder if the Redskins' general counsel had uttered a word about an injunction. So far, Colts owner Jimmy Irsay, who had to work hard to inherit the team from his father, has been free of media criticism.
Again, it would be better if an 11th hour, 59th minute miracle can be pulled out and a CBA extension went through. The start of free agency would be delayed for a few more days for the agreement to be ratified and digested and then the Redskins would be able to crank up Redskins One and start wooing free agent receivers and defensive ends. The only downside would be that their Plan B, their plan for getting under the cap without a CBA extension, would forever remain under wraps. We won't be able to see just how smart the Redskins are and we won't be able to see the critics squirm or, at least try to ignore the obvious. The meltdown on the Cowboys' message boards and them trying to claim that Bowen was a key, irreplaceable contributor for the Redskins will be equally enjoyable to witness.
The start of free agency without a new CBA was supposed to be Apocalypse Now for the Redskins. If that's the case, I think we're going to love the smell of the napalm tomorrow morning. It will smell like victory.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z. This unique book has accounts of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For more details and to order, click on http://www.RedskinsGames.com