Robert Griffin III is the future of the Washington Redskins, but they will need to continue building around him. To do so, Washington will be forced to clear up some cap space this offseason.
Releasing cornerback DeAngelo Hall (per ESPN) was the first of the Redskins’ cost-cutting measures, but it doesn’t appear it will be the last. According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, Washington may be on the verge of releasing veterans Santana Moss and Adam Carriker:
In addition to releasing CB DeAngelo Hall, as expected, Skins also highly likely to release Santana Moss and Adam Carriker. Need cap space— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 11, 2013
Moss has been a key contributor for the Redskins since joining the team in 2005, but at 33, he’s nearing the end of his career. With $4.15 million in base salary for 2013, his release wouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Carriker hasn’t been with the Redskins as long as the veteran wideout (he was acquired from the Rams in 2010), but the 28-year-old defensive end is still a productive player. He is owed $2.3 million in 2013, though the final two years of his contract will net him $9.4 million in base salary.
In a vacuum, neither player’s salary would hinder long-term sustainability. However, this isn’t a normal offseason.
Last offseason, the NFL docked the Redskins $36 million in cap space for the 2012 and 2013 seasons as a response to their alleged infraction of league rules by pushing spending into the then uncapped 2013 season (per NFL.com).
With Washington deemed to have violated league rules, the NFL saw fit to sanction future spending (as quoted by Albert Breer):
The Management Council Executive Committee determined that the contract practices of a small number of clubs during the 2010 league year created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance, particularly in light of the relatively modest salary cap growth projected for the new agreement's early years.
The $36 million in cap space Washington lost in the ruling was split between the 2012 and 2013 offseasons, making spending on free agents and other contracts this year increasingly more difficult.
For the Redskins to again gain the flexibility to build around their young talent, reducing spending this offseason will be a necessity. High-priced free agents simply aren’t an option, and in as difficult a decision it is for a team that put together a terrific 2012 season, this year may have to be a regrouping effort for future seasons.
Washington can still add some premium talent in the draft, but without a first-round selection this year, the options become much more limited.
Purging a roster of veteran talent is never a good option, but it’s sometimes necessary to infuse new talent and create a situation in which long-term sustainability is possible. Given the potential moves with which general manager Bruce Allen is faced, the league’s penalty could have been worse.
Still, Allen isn’t happy with the NFL’s decision, and he lashed out on Monday, as reported by the Washington Times:
Calling the $36 million penalty that was split between the 2012 and 2013 seasons a “travesty of fairness,” Allen said the team is still hoping to recover some portion of the $18 million docked by the league for the upcoming season. He didn’t specify how that might occur but ruled out suing the NFL.
Will Washington's $18 million in lost cap space affect its chances of winning this season?
Recovering that lost cap space will have to come from releasing current contracts and cutting back on free agent spending, and while the effects of that strategy may be felt in the short-term, they won’t necessarily hinder Washington’s growth going forward.
Every NFL team has executives in charge of salary cap maintenance and long-term planning. Bad contracts still happen, though, and free agents are constantly overpaid for their services. For this season at least, Washington will be able to avoid the pressures of overspending in free agency.
Cutting salary is the Redskins’ best option for this offseason, but it’s a temporary measure for long-term growth. When the league’s sanctions no longer affect Washington, it will be in position to build around its young talent the right way.