By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 19, 2006
The Washington Redskins do not have to renegotiate the contract of LaVar Arrington to meet the NFL salary cap and could get rid of the linebacker while still being able to re-sign their own free agents and add to the roster, according to two experts who have reviewed the team's 2006 payroll.
The Redskins face a $12 million salary cap hit if Arrington is traded or released. He is due a $6.5 million roster bonus by July 15, but that can be converted into a signing bonus prorated over four years to save the team approximately $5 million in cap space in 2006, according to the experts.
But that space is not critical to the Redskins reaching Coach Joe Gibbs's stated goal of keeping the nucleus of the roster together and perhaps adding a key player or two, according to the experts who asked not to be identified because commenting on the Redskins' cap situation could harm their future relationship with the team.
"This isn't a salary cap issue for them," said one of the experts. "They can still get under the cap with that $12 million hit, and not have to really cut anybody they wouldn't want to lose, anyway. This is not a cap issue at all; this is an issue of cash. Does [owner] Dan Snyder really want to give this player a check for $6.5 million? That's what this is all about."
Gibbs was noncommittal about Arrington's future on Monday, but Arrington has been speaking with owner Daniel Snyder recently, team sources said. He is amenable to altering his contract to remain in Washington despite two seasons in which he clashed with the team over treatment of his injuries, his contract and his playing time.
"Right now, I'm a Redskin until I'm told otherwise," he said this week.
The Redskins, like many teams, are over the projected 2006 salary cap of $95 million. Washington has about $113 million committed in players' salaries and bonuses, league sources said, and must be in compliance with the payroll ceiling by March 1.
The two sources said Washington could meet its obligation with or without restructuring Arrington's contract by trading or releasing other players, or reworking other contracts.
By cutting safety Matt Bowen and offensive lineman Cory Raymer, who played sparingly last season; cornerback Walt Harris, who lost his starting job to rookie Carlos Rogers; and place kicker John Hall, who was injured for large parts of the past two seasons, sources said the Redskins could save $6.5 million in 2006 cap space. Defensive tackle Brandon Noble, coming off career-threatening injuries, could retire or, if not, it is unlikely the team would keep him at his $1.7 million base salary. Trading backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey, as expected, would trim another $1.7 million.
Getting quarterback Mark Brunell and tackle Jon Jansen to agree to restructure their $4 million base salaries by converting the money to bonuses that can be spread out over several years against the cap would trim another $5 million. Brunell adjusted his salary last year and Jansen has said he would be open to exploring the idea. Cornerback Shawn Springs, running back Clinton Portis, linebacker Marcus Washington and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin are among the players who, like Arrington, have large bonuses due in 2006. By restructuring the bonuses, and prorating them, Washington could save about $8 million more under the cap.
All of those moves in total would get the team under $90 million, which would allow them to re-sign key free agent safety Ryan Clark, tight end Robert Royal, running back Rock Cartwright and long snapper Ethan Albright, and leave some room for signing other players. While it might not be enough to land a top-tier free agent such as Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne, the Redskins would still have other options to create more salary cap space, and, should they keep Arrington at a $7 million cap figure, the opportunity to chase a big-name free agent would increase.
Arrington has a base salary of $545,000. Should the Redskins elect to keep Arrington, there are provisions in his contract that would allow them to alter the deal and prorate the $6.5 million bonus over four years. This would lower his 2006 salary cap amount to $7 million.
Either trading or cutting Arrington would result in him counting $12 million on the team's 2006 cap under the current collective bargaining agreement, although if an extension to the CBA is reached before Arrington's bonus comes due, the Redskins could cut him after June 1 and take a $5 million salary cap hit in 2006 and a $7 million hit in 2007.
No trades become official until March 3, which is also the start of free agency, and two general managers said they believed the Redskins would have difficulty getting more than a mid-round pick for Arrington.
"There's still a market for him," said one AFC general manager who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But there's also a feeling that they'll eventually end up releasing him, so it's hard to get value for the player."