By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
The Washington Redskins met with representatives for quarterback Mark Brunell over the weekend in an attempt to restructure his salary and create additional space under the salary cap by the NFL deadline on Friday.
Brunell's agent, Leigh Steinberg, rejected the team's proposal, sources said, and although the sides have not negotiated since, the Redskins could make another attempt to rework the contract before Friday.
The Redskins have $115.4 million devoted to their 2006 salary cap, and must get under what is projected to be about a $96 million cap by 12:01 a.m. Friday if there is not an extension of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association. Without an extension, the Redskins face as tough a challenge as any team in the league in meeting the cap. With an extension, the cap figure could approach $108 million.
Brunell, who signed a seven-year, $43 million contract, including a guaranteed $8.6 million signing bonus, in 2004, has a $4 million base salary for 2006, second highest on the team. The Redskins had hoped to convert his base salary into bonuses and diminish his cap figure by several million dollars, but Steinberg declined, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
Steinberg, who agreed to rework Brunell's contract last year after a poor 2004 season, declined to comment, but sources said he met with Eric Schaffer, Washington's director of football administration, Friday night at the Indianapolis hotel where team executives and agents converged for the NFL combine.
Coach Joe Gibbs would not comment directly on Brunell's situation, or whether the team would approach him again, but said in general the Redskins are considering all means of managing the cap, given the uncertainty of labor negotiations.
"At this time, a lot of teams have a number of scenarios going on and they're talking to a number of their players to find ways to fulfill their obligations with the salary cap," Gibbs said. "But so much is up in the air right now, and we've got all kinds of scenarios going depending on how this thing turns out" with the CBA.
Brunell, who turns 36 in September, and offensive linemen Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas are three of the most obvious candidates for restructuring for cap purposes, but agents for those players said they have made no movement toward altering those contracts as of the start of this week. Thomas is coming off the best season of his career and Jansen played much of the season with broken thumbs.
Gibbs has been Brunell's biggest supporter throughout his roller-coaster tenure here, prizing his leadership and smarts, and has favored experienced passers throughout his Hall of Fame coaching career. Brunell has significant leverage because he would count more against the salary cap if traded or cut than he presently does ($5.43 million), and Washington's quarterback situation certainly also plays in Brunell's favor.
Patrick Ramsey, the only other quarterback on the roster with NFL experience, has been granted permission to seek a trade and is being shopped aggressively after sitting on the bench virtually all of 2005. Gibbs said that, as of yesterday afternoon, there had been no real progress toward a deal, but Miami and the New York Jets are interested, and there is sentiment in the league that a third- or fourth-round pick would satisfy the Redskins.
Jason Campbell, a first-round pick last year, was the third quarterback last season and Gibbs has said he is ready to fill a bigger role this season.
Gibbs said that if the Redskins cannot receive "value" for Ramsey he could still return, but the team agreed it would move the former first-round pick after benching him, sources said, and could use the $1.7 million in cap savings that trading him would provide, particularly if Campbell is ready to at least be the backup.
The Redskins would like to clear sufficient cap space to acquire a wide receiver and a pass-rushing defensive end in free agency, which begins Friday.
A new CBA would make it even more likely Washington could retain free agent safety Ryan Clark, tight end Robert Royal and defensive end Demetric Evans.