The biggest question regarding linebacker LaVar Arrington's future in Washington may not be whether he will be here beyond this season, but when he will depart. Several NFL general managers and player agents expect Arrington, once the face of the organization and now relegated to the lower depths of the roster, to be playing elsewhere in 2006 given his hefty contract, recent history with the club, injuries and lack of significance on this defense.
Arrington, 27, has a $12.05 million salary cap figure in 2006 -- almost twice that of any other Redskins player -- and is scheduled to receive a $6.5 million roster bonus July 15; four general managers and three prominent agents who have assessed the situation agreed that those factors likely will lead to an offseason departure. Arrington himself referred to an apparent shift of the team away from him Monday, and alluded to possibly having to pass physicals for other teams to prove that his surgically repaired knee is healed. Both Arrington and Coach Joe Gibbs have said he is fit enough to play.
Arrington is virtually ensured of being here for the duration of this season. Dealing him before the Oct. 18 trade deadline would require $12 million of salary cap space for Washington; the Redskins are about $1.6 million under the cap, league sources said. Washington could attempt to deal him in the offseason, when it could absorb that kind of cap hit, but considering he may have gone nearly two seasons without playing full time by then, and the fact that other teams may feel the Redskins are resigned to having to cut him eventually, getting value for the three-time Pro Bowler could prove difficult. Two general managers suggested a second- or third-round pick as possible value for Arrington, if healthy.
Picking up Arrington's roster bonus in July would require Washington to pay him $7 million total for 2006 (bonus plus base salary), and would also ensure he counts $12 million against its 2006 cap. Cutting Arrington in March would require a $12.14 million hit, but he would be off Washington's books after 2006; the team has incurred steep penalties in the past to make such moves. (Arrington's contract carries a $6.5 million cap figure in 2007 and $9.133 million in 2008, for example, but that would disappear if he were released or traded in March.)
If there is no extension to the current collective bargaining agreement this season, there will be no June 1 cut date in 2006, negating the opportunity to spread cap hits over two seasons. However, the Redskins may opt to wait beyond March, save about $200,000 and carry Arrington's $12 million figure against their salary cap during that critical month when free agency begins, in hopes of an extension later in the spring that would restore the June 1 date and allow them to spread Arrington's cap figure over two seasons.
Arrington has essentially been relegated to the fifth linebacker on the roster, behind the three starters, as well as reserve Chris Clemons. Khary Campbell is the sixth linebacker, but even he gets on the field more than Arrington, given his key role on special teams. Arrington took part in two plays in Sunday's win over Seattle and sat out the entire second half despite the Seahawks' comeback, which included a 91-yard drive that tied the game at 17 in the waning minutes. The coaches have given no indication that Arrington's role will increase anytime soon, and it may require injuries to other linebackers for him to play regularly.
Staff writer Leonard Shapiro contributed to this report.