Bowen said as he stood in the locker room: “Nobody really talks about it in here. You’re aware of it. You know that we got hit with like the $18 million [annual reduction]. It just shows how good our staff is, the organization, getting quality players in here. We had a winning squad last year, even with injuries. Next year — we’re not worried about that right now — but next year we’ve got to sign a couple guys and probably get a couple free agents to make our team even better.”
Shanahan said Wednesday that the salary cap penalty had no effect on the decisions the Redskins made last weekend when they trimmed their roster to 53 players for the regular season. Earlier this week, Shanahan declined to comment on the broader impact of the cap penalty on the team’s roster, calling the issue “water under the bridge.” Allen, who has been sharply critical in the past of the penalty, did not respond to a request to comment.
The Redskins’ decision-makers clearly had a smaller margin for error over the past two offseasons than other NFL teams did in their roster-building efforts. Agents and others who have dealt with the team say the Redskins believe their roster would be significantly stronger now if the penalty hadn’t been imposed.
Those people speculate that the Redskins would have re-signed Alexander and, at some point over the past two offseasons, probably would have signed an established right tackle to bolster their offensive line and perhaps would have added a cornerback, a safety and another wide receiver in free agency. When the Redskins signed wideouts Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan as free agents prior to last season, they also tried but failed to sign a third wide receiver, Eddie Royal. This past offseason, they showed interest in free agent cornerback Aqib Talib, but he re-signed with the New England Patriots for a relatively modest deal.
The counter-balance to all of that is that spending more money rarely, if ever, has guaranteed greater on-field success for the Redskins or anyone else in the NFL. Free agent moves can fail to work out for a variety of reasons, including injuries. The Redskins, even after signing Garcon and Morgan, lacked a 700-yard receiver last season. Wide receiver Santana Moss, entering his 13th season, was valuable to the team last year as a third wideout after it was speculated that he might have been released if the team had signed Royal. Safety Brandon Meriweather played only one game last season after signing with the Redskins as a free agent.
What can’t be debated is that the Redskins and many of their fans have used the salary cap case for inspiration. The usual targets of their ire have been the league and New York Giants owner John Mara, the head of an owners’ committee that was involved in the NFL’s deliberations on the matter.
“We use that as motivation,” said Cofield, who formerly played for the Giants. “You have to use those me-against-the-world-type of tactics, especially when a team in the division is like spearheading the effort to get your penalties, a team that I played for. That gives me even more desire to do good despite those penalties. We know that keeping our core was important to us. We were able to almost do it 100 percent. And we feel like that continuity from year to year will hopefully help us early in the season.”