I suppose you could argue that in a literal sense the Washington Redskins can't afford DeAngelo Hall as is. They're still over the salary cap with only a week and a half until free agency gets underway and Hall is slated to count $8 million against the cap in 2013.
But in a practical sense, the team simply can't afford to sacrifice a veteran cornerback without knowing what they're going to get from the new corners they collect this offseason.
The key is a restructure. Considering that Josh Wilson is the only other experienced cornerback on the team who is under contract for next season, the leverage is on Hall's side. The remainder of his contract isn't guaranteed, so he'd essentially have to take a pay cut to stick around.
Hall has said that he'd be willing to restructure his deal, which probably means he'd be willing to take a cut this year and risk being released if he doesn't perform well enough to retain his job and his value after the 2013 season.
If he continues to perform the way he did during the second half of the 2012 campaign, the 'Skins could indeed decide to keep the 29-year-old (yes, he's somehow still only 29) long term. Hall gave up completions on 70 percent of the balls thrown his way during the first eight weeks, but he lowered that number to 61 percent during the final eight weeks (per Pro Football Focus). And he had one of the best games of his career in a playoff-clinching Week 17 victory over the rival Dallas Cowboys.
Because so many their veterans are at or near the end of their contracts, the 'Skins don't have a lot of restructuring options. They'll likely save a couple million dollars on Hall and then look to get under the cap by reworking Santana Moss' deal and maybe even by cutting someone like Adam Carriker. That should give them the cash to bring back Cedric Griffin, who played well enough down the stretch to retain the nickel job behind Wilson and Hall.
The Redskins don't need Carriker, and Moss might not be a game-changer at this stage. Without both Hall and Griffin, they'd be in big, big trouble. One of the league's worst secondaries simply can't take any more hits.
The key is to get through this year. That $18 million sanction is a massive pain in the ass, but it's forcing them to be disciplined and will make things a lot easier in a year's time. That's when they'll also have the luxury to wave goodbye to guys like Hall. Right now, they have to bite the bullet.