One of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's nearly constant companions in recent weeks has been a stack of papers containing the team's salary cap projections for the next three seasons. The projections are updated constantly, changing with each move the club makes or even considers.
The Redskins have been by far the NFL's most active team in the early stages of this year's free agent market. But Snyder says he has been careful to do cap-friendly deals with an eye toward how the player additions will affect the club's competitiveness -- and economics -- over the next three seasons.
"We set it up so we can keep the team together in its entirety for three years, if we so desire," Snyder said.
Snyder, director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato and vice president of football operations Joe Mendes were criticized for having a nearly $100 million player payroll in 2000 for an 8-8 team. That season the Redskins signed cornerback Deion Sanders, defensive end Bruce Smith, safety Mark Carrier and quarterback Jeff George as free agents.
This time, the Redskins are focusing on younger players with smaller price tags. Only one addition -- guard Randy Thomas -- has received a signing bonus of more than $2 million. Some observers contend that the Redskins overpaid for a guard, but team officials say they've been told that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were prepared to give Thomas a similar contract. The Redskins have filled specific needs, as with the signing of place kicker John Hall, and have added some role players, such as defensive tackle Brandon Noble.
The club cleared salary cap space by releasing tailback Stephen Davis, safety Sam Shade, tight end Walter Rasby and punter Craig Jarrett before free agency opened. Snyder carved out about $3.5 million in additional cap room by restructuring the contracts of left tackle Chris Samuels and middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.
The Redskins plan to rework the deals of one or two more players -- including defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, whom the club now plans to retain following the free agent departure of Daryl Gardener -- and project that they will enter next season about $1 million beneath the $75.007 million cap.
-- Mark Maske