When I wrote about Jon Jansen's release a week ago, I was imprecise in communicating a number that is important when evaluating the move and I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify.
I said that by releasing Jansen "the Redskins took a cap hit of some $6 million." That's true. The Redskins will take a dead cap charge of $6.1 million.
However, unless you are the one writing out the checks that's not the relevant number to look at when judging the move. Jansen would have counted $4.5 million against the cap had he stayed on the roster. So, the net cap hit was $1.6 million. That is the more meaningful number.
This is not to say that the $6.1 million in dead cap that will be on the 2009 books doesn't matter. The Redskins will be tying up 4.7% of their available cap space in one player who no longer is on the roster.
Add to that the $5.3 million (4.1%) they're carrying on the books as a result of the Brandon Lloyd fiasco and the $2.7 (2.1%) million of prorated bonus left on Shawn Springs' deal and you'll see that the Redskins have over a tenth of their entire salary cap tied up in players who will be playing for other teams.
Certainly, all NFL teams carry some dead cap on their books but the Redskins are annually among the league leaders.
The Redskins "paid" for the Jansen move by restructuring Santana Moss' deal. They converted most of Moss' 2009 and 2010 salaries into signing bonus. So he got a check for $6.2 million to help him celebrate his 30th birthday last weekend and to help the Redskins neutralize the effects of Jansen's release. The move lowered his 2009 cap charge by $1.7 million.
In order to make this work, the Redskins added a year to Moss' deal but that 2011 season voids automatically. All of this means that the Redskins will be facing a 2011 dead cap charge of $5.2 million.
If there is a salary cap in 2011—that is likely but far from certain—the Redskins will redo another player's deal in order to squeeze that dead cap in under the limit.
As long as the cap continues to go up this approach has its advantages. The total cap charge for Moss over the next three years does not go up. You do have to pay the piper but you are repaying him in dollars that are worth less than they were when you spent them. Just two years ago when the cap was $107 million, a $5.2 million dead cap charge would have represented almost 5% of the cap. Should the cap grow at the same rate the next two years as it has in the past two, it will be at $153 million. That same $5.2 million would be just 3.4% of the cap.
Certainly there are drawbacks as well. The Redskins' way of doing things hasn't worked. They have been unable to get out of the NFL's muddled middle.