By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 7, 2006
LaVar Arrington sat in his Annapolis home yesterday afternoon, tending to his baby daughter after a lengthy workout and contemplating an uncertain future after parting with the only pro football team to ever employ him. Arrington, one of the most popular players in recent Washington Redskins history, was having conflicting emotions after being granted free agency after six seasons.
The deal, which was finalized just before midnight Sunday, required Arrington to forfeit $4.4 million in deferred signing bonus payments, according to sources who have reviewed the paperwork. That will now count as a credit on Washington's 2006 salary cap. In exchange, Arrington, 27, is able to sign elsewhere after two tumultuous seasons in which it became clear that he would not have a long-term future with the Redskins.
"The one thing that disheartens me the most about my experience here is basically how everybody tries to cast a negative light on everything," Arrington said in a phone interview. "Why not focus on the positive of what this whole situation has brought about? The positive is the Redskins and myself had some difficult times together; I've pushed through them and [the] Redskins have pushed through them, but we've come to a point where it's time to go our separate ways, and there's nothing horribly wrong with that. They have an opportunity now to get more cap room, and re-sign some guys I really love, and I have the opportunity to get a fresh beginning."
Arrington's record, eight-year, $68 million contract extension, signed in December 2003, included a $16 million signing bonus that would be paid in stages, with $5.7 million still due. Arrington, who was slated to count $12 million against Washington's 2006 cap before restructuring, will receive the remaining $1.3 million of that signing bonus from the team, excluding the $4.4 million portion, with him in essence counting $7.6 million in "dead money" on Washington's cap.
His relationship with the organization, and owner Daniel Snyder in particular, began to sour shortly after he signed that 2003 contract, which Arrington claims excluded a $6.5 million bonus that had been verbally agreed upon. A grievance over that subject lingered and 2003 also became Arrington's last Pro Bowl season. He hurt his knee in Joe Gibbs's first game back as coach, missed virtually all of that season, clashed with the team over his injuries and contract, was benched for much of the first few months of the 2005 season and was not an every-down player.
"When I came here, you knew that LaVar was a big part of the Redskins' program," Gibbs said during a news conference yesterday. "There had been a huge commitment to LaVar, and he was a big part of it. I was looking forward to it; we all were as coaches, and I think sometimes up here what happens is whether through injury or other things it just doesn't go as smoothly as what you want. I think it's just a matter of working through those things to try to do the best you can. We wish it could have been better for LaVar and for us."
Gibbs visited Arrington's home about two weeks ago, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, to begin the restructuring process. The Redskins were working to restructure 10 or more contracts at the time, seeking cap relief in the event the league and the players' association could not agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. There were stipulations in all of those new deals that would render them invalid if the CBA were extended. Without an extension the Redskins would have to meet a $94.5 million cap; with one, the cap would rise to a projected $108 million.
Arrington was willing to agree to a restructuring similar to what other teammates had agreed to but wanted the contract to be valid regardless of the CBA situation, according to sources with direct knowledge of the conversations. They say Arrington offered to agree to a restructuring with more future payments guaranteed up front and eligibility for free agency after the 2007 season. The Redskins would accept that offer only with provisions tied to the CBA outcome, according to the sources. When no agreement could be reached over the weekend, talks turned to deals that would grant Arrington free agency now.
Gibbs said there were "two scenarios" before Arrington, one restructuring based upon the outcome of the CBA talks that would keep him on the roster in 2006, and another allowing him to become a free agent now regardless of a CBA extension. With a CBA extension, however, the Redskins could have cut Arrington after June 1 and absorbed a $5.1 million cap hit in 2006. Arrington also had a $6.5 million roster bonus due by July 15, which he did not expect to see, according to sources close to him, and he wanted to avoid being cut that late in the offseason, when rosters and payrolls are largely set league wide.
The sides agreed to the final figures late Sunday. "I did not give them money back," Arrington said. "It's not like I wrote a check to get out of here."
Arrington's charity work and personality endeared him to fans here, as well as big-play ability. He plans to maintain his home here, and continue his community work. "It's an area I'm deeply rooted in," Arrington said. "So I'll be around, not as a Washington Redskin, but I'll be around as LaVar Arrington, and to the fans that really matter -- and that I matter to them -- that's what's important."
Arrington said he is eager to make his mark elsewhere. One AFC general manager contacted yesterday said there could be 10 teams in the market for outside linebackers -- including NFC East rivals Dallas, Philadelphia and New York.
"That's a position of need for a lot of teams out there, and there isn't a whole lot of talent [available] at outside linebacker," the general manager said. "I'm sure there will be some concern over his health, but there will be interest in him."
Redskins Notes: Gibbs recently contacted defensive lineman Brandon Noble, cornerback Walt Harris, and center Cory Raymer, among others, to inform them they would be released, according to several of the players and their agents. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey was not one of the players Gibbs called, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, and Gibbs said yesterday that uncertainty about the CBA has suspended trade talks for the former first-round pick. . . . The list of players known to have agreed to restructured contracts includes Arrington, Mark Brunell, Clinton Portis, Shawn Springs, Cornelius Griffin, Jon Jansen, Randy Thomas, Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels. All deals but Arrington's are contingent on there not being a CBA extension. . . . Defensive back Ade Jimoh received a qualifying offer from the Redskins yesterday, according to his agent. The makes Jimoh a restricted free agent, meaning the Redskins have the right to match any offer or receive compensation if he left.