With the release of Marcus Washington the Washington Redskins saved $4 million in salary cap space. That, combined with the restructures done by Antwaan Randle El and Andre Carter and the voiding of Phillip Daniels' contract (confirmed yesterday by LaCanfora) puts the Redskins right around the $123 million cap limit. They have to be under that limit by midnight next Friday, February 27.
If they are under that limit, it won't be by much and that's the problem for those who have visions of Albert Haynesworth dancing in their heads. While the Redskins have been very creative in doing a lot with a little cap space, their creativity will be severely hampered this offseason.
Even if they release both Jason Taylor and Shawn Springs, moves that Jim Zorn said he doesn't want to make, they would be right around $10 million under the cap. That's a lot of money in the real world but in the world of the NFL salary cap it's chump change. The team needs to set aside money for the rookie pool (this hasn't been finalized but it will be in the neighborhood of $2-$3 million) and a couple of million to replace players who wind up on injured reserve. Five million or so doesn't get you very far in the NFL free agent market these days, not when the median number is $19 million under and several teams such as Tampa Bay, Denver, and Arizona are over $40 million under.
Many of the restructure techniques that the Redskins have used to create cap space out of thin air in the past are unavailable to them. That's because there are restrictions on how much a players' compensation can go up going into an uncapped year. Since 2010 is scheduled to be uncapped they can't cut a player's cap number this year through bonus conversions because it would go up too much next year to be legal under the collective bargaining agreement.
Another problem is that the team ends up dealing from a position of weakness when it is desperate to make deals to get under the cap. Virtually any other NFL team would be telling Jon Jansen and his $5 million cap hit that escalates to over $8 million in each of the next two years thanks for the memories right now. But because they had to redo his contract to create cap space a couple of years ago, when he already was in decline, and they had to guarantee him a bunch of money in the process, they would take a cap hit in excess of $6 million if they released him. So the Redskins are stuck with a lineman who is well past his prime but who is taking up the cap space of a perennial All Pro.
In short, the pigeons are coming home to roost. They have the triple whammy of eating a high cap number for a player who is taking up a roster spot that could be used for a younger, developmental player and they can't afford to do anything about it.
It doesn't look like those redone contracts signed by Carter and Randle El are quite as ugly down the road as is Jansen's, but pushing back a few million here and a few million there adds up to some real money at some point. And this year it's adding up to a season where the Redskins are right up against the cap and wearing handcuffs.
Both Cerrato and Zorn have said that the Redskins are going to be active in free agency. I've been active in trying to find a Sony 52" plasma TV and a blow-the-windows-out surround sound system and I can't find those items at a price that will fit my budget. Zorn and Cerrato are likely to find themselves under similar constraints come Friday.