With New Deadline, Redskins Juggle Players' Contracts

By Jason La Canfora and Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 3, 2006

Several players have agreed to restructure their contracts to help the Washington Redskins get under the NFL's salary cap, maneuvers that would be voided if the league and players' union were to reach agreement on a new labor deal by Sunday.

Players known to have agreed to reworked contracts include quarterback Mark Brunell, running back Clinton Portis, cornerback Shawn Springs, guard Randy Thomas and defensive end Renaldo Wynn. The Redskins have negotiated with other players as well, including tackle Jon Jansen and linebacker LaVar Arrington, but the final status of those talks could not be confirmed.

The Redskins, like all NFL teams, had faced a 10 p.m. deadline yesterday for cap compliance. The NFL agreed to push that back three days, however, giving the league and union more time to negotiate a contract extension to the labor agreement that could add about $10 million to the salary cap figure.

A labor agreement and new collective bargaining agreement would push the cap from $94.5 million to as high as $108 million; the Redskins entered yesterday with $115.4 million committed to their 51 highest-paid players in 2006. There is a group of players the team could opt to cut regardless of a new labor agreement, but as of yesterday the team had made no cuts official and would likely not release anyone until Sunday's 6 p.m. cutoff for cap compliance.

Team officials were working yesterday to finalize deals, with director of football administration Eric Schaffer leading talks with agents, and were prepared to wait until 10 p.m. to make cuts.

A new CBA would allow the team to make fewer drastic restructurings, easily clear cap space and address needs at wide receiver and defensive end, for instance, in free agency. Several players who agreed to contract changes said they did so at least in part to put the team in position to retain its depth and continue progressing after reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

"The good thing is as a player, you're about the team and you try to do the best to help the team," Springs said. "And in a situation like this, it's a win-win for a lot of us. You're not getting cut, you're getting restructured and there's probably a good chance it'll be a win-win for you. We'll see next year what happens to the Redskins."

Thomas said: "I helped out as much as I could. Anything to get us where we want to be going. I restructured my deal this year to save us some cap room, and I know other guys did, too."

In the case of several contracts, the Redskins in essence agreed to guarantee multiple years of a contract, then prorate that money for cap purposes as a signing bonus. Later years of a contract were then voided, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, which would allow someone like Portis, for instance, to become a free agent after the 2008 season, while receiving significant additional payments in 2007 and 2008. Even then, the Redskins could re-sign such players, and all of this would be moot with a new CBA. Brunell's move alone would save about $1.8 million in cap space, sources said.

A new CBA would also allow the Redskins to prorate about $20 million in 2006 roster bonuses, saving the team $15 million in cap space; they would limit any cuts and leave ample room to re-sign key free agents like starting safety Ryan Clark, starting tight end Robert Royal, defensive lineman Demetric Evans and special teams player Rock Cartwright, as well as acquire talent from elsewhere.

Some players, like backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey, defensive tackle Brandon Noble, punter Tom Tupa, cornerback Walt Harris, center Cory Raymer and safety Matt Bowen, were expected to be cut regardless of the labor situation, but those moves could be delayed with a new CBA (trade talks involving Ramsey can now continue).

While players yesterday were concerned with the overall labor situation, they were more occupied with whether it would break the team's momentum after a strong season.

"You definitely think about that," linebacker Marcus Washington said, "and that's one of the things you kind of hate about the NFL, just because there's only so much money you get to give players and sometimes you can't keep everybody you want or everyone you need and guys go other places and get better deals. It was the same way with me and the Colts. Hopefully, we can keep everybody. We've been pretty good with keeping our nucleus together, guys who really make a difference with this team."

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