As expected, the NFL owners voted to end the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players association on Tuesday. The unanimous vote has no immediate impact, but it does start the clock ticking towards an uncapped year in 2010.
That season with no salary cap has many Washington Redskins fans gleefully anticipating a Dan Snyder spending spree to end all spending sprees. It’s a long way to go before getting there, and it would not be the nirvana that many think it would be.
Let’s forget for a minute about how players would have to be in the league for six years instead of the current four in order to be eligible for unrestricted free agency, resulting in an older, thinner group of free agents. And nevermind that any potential free agents actually would have to be, you know, free agents, for the 'Skins to be able to sign them. They couldn’t throw the Washington Monument and White House at Peyton Manning, because he’s under contract.
The simple fact is that in the billionaire’s club that is the NFL, Snyder isn’t up there with the real big boys when it comes to personal wealth. To be sure, unlike Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson and Wayne Weaver of the Jags, he sits at the grownups’ table, but Seahawks owner Paul Allen could pull enough out of petty cash to buy and sell Snyder a few times over. Snyder made his money in advertising; Jerry Jones made his in oil. Jones’ black-gold fortune is substantially larger than what Snyder amassed in marketing.
So, even if the Redskins could find enough free agent players that filled their needs, there is no guarantee that they could win a bidding war for the services of those athletes.
It does appear, however, that the Redskins are better prepared for a potential labor standoff than they were the last time the CBA was being negotiated all of two years ago.
Going into the 2006 offseason, the Redskins were way over the cap, some $20 million over the $95 million limit. Some provisions that took effect in the last capped year before an uncapped year (2007 would have been uncapped had the current agreement not been hammered out) that made it impossible for the Skins to use some of their usual methods to restructure deals and lower their cap numbers.
The 'Skins were headed for cap hell. Not the kind that everyone keeps predicting for them, the kind that never comes. Real, true, cap hell.
From an article in this blog entitled “Cap-tastrophe” from February 20, 2006:
One of the problems with cutting players, is that with the contracts structured as they are and the fact that most of the contracts are pretty new, there isn’t much money to be saved in releasing a lot of players with big camp numbers. For example, LaVar Arrington counts about $12 million towards the ’06 cap, but releasing him would result in a slightly higher cap charge than that because of uncharged money already paid to him.
It’s like being upside down on a car loan, when the car is worth less than the payoff amount. Cutting Arrington would the put Redskins further away from the goal of being able to get under the cap. The same is true of such players who might be considered expendable in a crisis such as Mark Brunell and David Patten.
Now, to be sure, there are players that the team could release that actually could save money. Some of these players are ones that the Redskins would rather not cut, such as Marcus Washington, Ladell Betts, Jon Jansen, and Joe Salave’a. However, the Redskins could cut those four, plus Taylor Jacobs, Renaldo Wynn, Pierson Prioleau, Philip Daniels, James Thrash, Cory Raymer, John Hall, Patrick Ramsey, Walt Harris, and Matt Bowen, and still be about $8 million shy of being able to make it under the cap.
To realize the maximum cap savings, which are obviously necessary, these players would have to be replaced with rookies earning the minimum salary. Thus the “15-20 rookies” alluded to by Prisco and Pasquerelli.
Many Redskins fans have blocked this from their memories since after a few extensions of the deadline, an agreement was reached and a level of cap hell that no team ever has experienced was averted.
The Redskins appear to have learned from this brush with death. While the same restrictive provisions will be in place in 2009 if there is no agreement before the free-agency period starts, the Skins aren’t in danger of being decimated this time around.
They are only a few million over the projected 2009 cap, and there are a few players who could be cut to save enough money to get them safely under the limit.
There is plenty of time to hash this over in the coming months. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.