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Amid Labor Deal Uncertainty, Redskins Face Payroll Cuts

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Washington Redskins have less than a week to trim about $20 million from the payroll to come in under the 2006 salary cap, a task made more difficult by the uncertainty over the future of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players' union.

Without an extension to the agreement, the Redskins face several complicated contract renegotiations to comply with the salary cap by next Friday, the official start of the free agency signing period.

The Redskins have about $114 million dedicated to the 2006 salary cap, which is projected to be set at about $95 million per team. They have made little progress in trimming contracts to get under the limit, according to league sources and agents involved in such talks with the team.

The Redskins are trying to trade backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins expressing interest in him. But the team has had no recent discussions with linebacker LaVar Arrington, who will cost the team $12 million against the cap in 2006, sources said. It also has made no headway toward reworking the contracts of tackle Jon Jansen, quarterback Mark Brunell and guard Randy Thomas, all of whom have base salaries of $3.5 million or more.

Talks with the agents for many of those players are expected to occur this weekend at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

League and players' union officials have been meeting this week in Indianapolis in an effort to reach agreement on an extension of the collective bargaining agreement. Some in the league believe the deadline for compliance with the salary cap could be extended beyond next Friday for a week or two if the sides are close to a deal.

In the past, the Redskins have converted bonuses and restructured salaries to come in under the cap. But the lack of a collective bargaining extension triggers new provisions that could force Washington to restructure salaries wholesale and possibly to cut players it would prefer to keep. The unresolved talks between the league and union have created other uncertainties that limit the Redskins' ability to sign their own free agents -- namely safety Ryan Clark, defensive end Demetric Evans and tight end Robert Royal -- and could affect its ability to sign outside free agents.

"Everything is on hold right now," said agent Rick Smith, who represents Jansen and Royal. "The Redskins are waiting for the league to give them some direction on if there's going to be an extension to the CBA or not, and that presents two very different scenarios. They're in a really tough, tough position right now."

A telephone message for Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato seeking comment for this story was not returned.

Smith noted that every NFL team is facing the same issues as the Redskins because of the league's labor uncertainty. Washington's problems are magnified, however, because of how much it is over the salary cap and the way it has structured contracts in recent years. "Right now, the [lack of a] CBA [extension] is whipping their backside," said one agent who has held several discussions with Redskins director of football administration Eric Schaffer.

The Redskins are expected to release defensive backs Matt Bowen and Walt Harris, tackle Brandon Noble and center Cory Raymer, which would create about $7 million in cap space. They also are expected to trade Ramsey (for draft picks) and cut place kicker John Hall, which would free up $3.2 million more. Defensive end Renaldo Wynn and wide receivers James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs could be sacrificed as well.

Even those moves would leave the team about $10 million over the cap, and that is where the restructurings come in. With a collective bargaining extension, the team could convert base salary to bonuses for Jansen and Brunell, and save another $5 million by spreading those bonuses over several years. The lack of an extension would make this much more difficult.

Some in the NFL believe Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is particularly torn by the collective bargaining impasse. Snyder needs a new labor deal to ease the team's cap issues in 2006. But he also has spent heavily on free agents in the past and, if an extension is not completed, there would be no salary cap in 2007. That would allow him to spend as lavishly as he likes on new players.

Snyder also is at the vanguard of a movement by some owners to protect more of their locally generated revenue from the league's revenue-sharing program -- an issue that has divided NFL owners. But his need for an extension of the collective bargaining agreement in the short term could temper his aggressiveness in pushing that platform.

Redskins Notes: A hearing took place Wednesday in the NFL Players Association's investigation into Carl Poston, Arrington's agent, during which Arrington spoke on Poston's behalf, league sources said. A ruling in the matter, which could result in a fine or suspension for the agent, has not been made, and an appeal could follow. . . . The mother of Redskins running back Clinton Portis is being sued for an altercation with a fan at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field last season. Lisa Walker is suing the star's mother, Rhonnel Y. Hearn, in federal court in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Hearn was moved to the Redskins' sideline after striking someone she claimed had doused her with beer, and after the game Portis said his mother had bloodied the nose of an unruly fan. Walker's lawyer says she was not responsible for the thrown beer.

Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.

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