By Joseph White
Wednesday, March 15, 2006 1:28 PM
ASHBURN, Va. -- Coach Joe Gibbs defended the Washington Redskins' aggressive approach to free agency on Wednesday, dismissing any implication that the team is somehow circumventing the NFL's salary cap.
"The thing I want to emphasize is this: We haven't done one thing that anybody else can't do," Gibbs said following a news conference to introduce free agent signing Andre Carter. "We have certain rules in the league. Here's the cap, here's the numbers, here's what you can spend, so everybody in the league can do what we're doing, it's just that they choose not to, many of them."
Despite starting the month some $13 million over the $102 million cap that was set following negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, the Redskins have once again been one of March's busiest teams.
Since Saturday, they have traded for San Francisco receiver Brandon Lloyd and signed five unrestricted free agents: receiver Antwaan Randle El, safety Adam Archuleta, tight end Christian Fauria, backup quarterback Todd Collins and Carter. Randle El and Archuleta alone were given contracts with a combined $21.5 million in guaranteed money.
"Each team's a little different, how they want to build a team. ... Certainly Pittsburgh is a scheme that works, they won a Super Bowl," Gibbs said. "If you watch their team, there are a lot of draft choices, they're real conscious about that. It remains to be seen how we'll end up doing, but we've chosen to be more aggressive in free agency."
The Redskins put themselves under the cap by cutting five expendable players on the eve of free agency, and they also saved $4.4 million in the deal that made linebacker LaVar Arrington a free agent. Since then, they've been cutting cap dollars by renegotiating contracts with returning veterans, giving the players upfront bonuses that can be prorated for salary cap purposes.
Owner Dan Snyder's overspending in 2000 caused then-coach Marty Schottenheimer to make drastic cuts in 2001, but Snyder's strategy since then has been to map out a cap strategy using what Gibbs said were "three- to four-year spreadsheets." The goal is to shift cap money around in a coherent manner that keeps the team from being forced to part with players it wants to keep.
It hasn't worked perfectly -- coveted linebacker Antonio Pierce left for the New York Giants last year -- but Gibbs' free agency upgrades helped get the Redskins into the playoffs last year, and the overhaul continues. Only five projected 2006 starters were with the team before Gibbs arrived in January 2004.
The best free agent additions under Gibbs have been linebacker Marcus Washington, cornerback Shawn Springs, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and defensive end Phillip Daniels.
"People say, 'Why would you go get the free agents?'" Gibbs said. "Well, look at the guys we wouldn't have on our football team."
The Redskins are able to afford huge signing bonuses because Snyder's marketing savvy has helped make the team one of the most profitable in sports, but Gibbs downplayed the connection between Snyder's fortune and the team's free agency haul.
"The biggest misrepresentation there is that (it's because) Dan's got a lot of money. That's not it," Gibbs said. "We've got a rule. Believe me, if we had no rules, Dan would spend some money."