Redskins' Release of Jon Jansen a Matter of Timing

Rich TandlerSenior Analyst IMay 29, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 3:  Offensive tackle Jon Jansen #76 of the Washington Redskins blocks against the Atlanta Falcons on December 3, 2006 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. The Falcons defeated the Redskins 24-14. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Redskins-cut-Jansen-46472752.html">Jon Jansen’s release, a move that the Washington Redskins announced earlier today, came as a surprise. Dan Snyder flew the team's aircraft, Redskins One, to Michigan to pick up Jansen so that Jim Zorn could deliver to news to him in person.

By releasing Jansen, the Redskins took a cap hit of some $6 million. On the surface, the timing is somewhat puzzling, but once you dig a little deeper it makes more sense.

Apparently this is a move that Zorn has wanted to make since the end of last year. However, had the move been made at the start of free agency, it would have been very difficult to fit the contracts of Albert Haynesworth, Derrick Dockery, and DeAngelo Hall in under the cap.

Also, at that time, Jansen was the only experienced depth the Redskins had at the tackle spot. Even though, in the view of Zorn and just about anybody who watched more than five minutes of the 2008 Redskins’ offense with Jansen in the lineup, his skills had slipped considerably from his prime seasons, it would have been foolhardy to release him and leave nothing in reserve. The fact that the penciled-in starter is Stephon Heyer, who still is a work in progress, make it even more important for the Redskins to have a solid reserve at right tackle.

Then, just before the draft, one shoe dropped for Jansen. The Redskins signed Mike Williams. The fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft was about 70 pounds overweight and hasn’t played since 2006. He’s a veteran project but a warm body (actually, Zorn said that he was as big as two bodies) nonetheless.

The other shoe fell when the team signed Jeremy Bridges. The Southern Mississippi product has started 39 games in six seasons with the Eagles, Cardinals, and Panthers. At his low end, he represents quality depth and at the high end, he could beat out Heyer for the starting job.

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So the Redskins had two potential replacements for Jansen. During minicamp and OTAs, they tried him at backup center but he failed to impress there.

They may have given him a shot in training camp, but he was due a $1.5 million roster bonus in July. If they had him participate in the second round of OTA’s starting on Monday to give him a last shot, they would have been gambling. If he were to sustain a serious injury during the OTAs, the team would have been on the hook for the roster bonus and his 2009 salary.

Some have asked why they didn’t wait until after June 1 to spread the cap hit out. Since 2010 currently is an uncapped year, June 1 doesn’t exist. Well, it’s on your calendar, but there is no cap hit break for releasing a player after June 1. They don’t want teams prematurely dumping dead cap in next year.

Jansen, of course, is the longest-tenured Redskin. He never quite got his play up to a Pro Bowl level but he was as solid a tackle as there was in the game from about 2000 through 2003. Although he repeatedly expressed frustration with Steve Spurrier’s blocking schemes, he resigned with the Redskins prior to becoming a free agent in 2002.

That contract made sense. The one that didn’t make sense was the one that Joe Gibbs signed him to in 2007. The $23 million deal carried $10 million in guarantees and it is the leftover money on that deal that created the nasty cap hit the Redskins sustained today.