The Washington Redskins can begin seeking salary cap relief by cutting players after the NFL's deadline of midnight tonight, but there were no signs yesterday that a major upheaval was near.
Several key veterans, including linebacker Mike Barrow and wide receiver Rod Gardner, are considered prime candidates to be released, but the Redskins do not have to make any moves immediately tomorrow -- when teams can begin cutting players to spread the cap hit over multiple seasons -- and are not expected to do much.
Washington is about $1.5 million under the salary cap, and while the team will need to free up several more millions to sign its six draft picks -- including two from the first round -- there is no need to make such cuts immediately. Negotiations with top draft picks do not normally begin until July, and the Redskins have sufficient space now to sign another veteran or two for depth as other players around the league are released. Health usually plays a major part in these decisions, and that is certainly the case with the Redskins.
Barrow, 35, has not played in a preseason or regular season game since signing with Washington last year and knee problems continue to keep him off the field and in treatment. The Redskins have bolstered their depth at linebacker through free agency and the draft, and Barrow's age, injury status and high salary cap figure have led to speculation that he will be let go. Washington could save $1.74 million in 2005 cap space by cutting him, although Barrow would carry a $1.66 million cap penalty in 2006. Barrow, who has been working with a specialist in Arizona, is also the only experienced middle linebacker on the roster, however, and has an exceptional knowledge of Gregg Williams's defensive system, factors working in his favor.
Coach Joe Gibbs has declined to discuss the likelihood that Barrow could be released, and is not commenting on any players in that regard. Barrow's agent, Marvin Demoff, has not returned numerous phone messages.
Gardner has been away from Redskins Park the entire offseason as the team attempts to trade him. Given Gibbs's patience with the process thus far, the Redskins may retain Gardner's rights in hopes that injuries and developments elsewhere create a richer market for the former first-round pick as July training camp approaches. Gardner is in the final year of his contract and carries no 2006 cap penalties, so the Redskins could have released him before today and still received a full $2.1 million cap savings in 2005. He is not participating in organized team activity practices and is not in the team's plans. There has been much speculation that return specialist Chad Morton could be let go as well, with other players handling return duties adequately after he underwent season-ending surgery last season. Morton, who would provide $540,000 in cap savings this season, has yet to be cleared to practice since his anterior cruciate ligament surgery, but his agent, Leigh Steinberg, said yesterday that the Redskins had given him no indication Morton would be released. Neil Schwartz, the agent for reserve center Lennie Friedman (a potential $650,000 savings in 2005), said he had no indication that his client would be cut, either. (Washington signed free agent Casey Rabach this offseason and Cory Raymer, who won the starting job from Friedman last season, remains on the roster.)
Place kicker John Hall was injured for virtually all of last season, and while Gibbs said he is fine now, the Redskins signed veteran Jeff Chandler. Cutting Hall would save Washington $1.1 million in 2005. Reserve running back Rock Cartwright ($656,000 contract) and receiver Darnerien McCants ($545,000 possible 2005 savings) could find it difficult to crack the final roster, but players that young normally are given a chance in training camp rather than being released now.
Redskins Notes: Free agent cornerback R.W. McQuarters, who visited Redskins Park last week and drew significant interest, was scheduled to meet with the Miami Dolphins yesterday. McQuarters has also visited the New York Giants, and could visit Tampa Bay. . . . The team signed running back Jonathan Combs, an undrafted rookie from Texas College who participated in its recent rookie camp.