The Washington Redskins completed a new contract with veteran quarterback Mark Brunell yesterday, creating additional salary cap space and retaining the services of a player regarded highly by Coach Joe Gibbs. Brunell, 36, essentially halved his salary cap cost from its original $6.7 million figure, taking a pay cut to stay with the team for a fourth season. The team also released veteran tight end Christian Fauria, creating another $1 million in cap savings.
Brunell lost his starting position to Jason Campbell last season, but had hoped to stay here. His new contract makes his existing deal obsolete and will make Brunell a free agent following the 2007 season, according to league sources (the new contract technically is for four years, but the final three years will void automatically).
Brunell, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, will earn close to the veteran minimum of $820,000 in salary (base salaries are not guaranteed) and also will receive a roster bonus, believed to be in the $1 million range, in mid-June after the Redskins complete minicamp. The bonus in essence is protection for the team in case Brunell's injured labrum does not heal by then, as he will have received no guaranteed money to that point.
"I'm very excited about being back," Brunell said. "I expect us to be competitive and to do well next season, and I'm excited about being in a supporting role and helping Jason in any way I can."
Brunell, who was the first player Gibbs sought after returning to coaching in 2004, was scheduled to earn $5.2 million in base salary this season (he received an $8.6 million signing bonus as part of that contract), which is excessive for a backup. Cutting Brunell would have created a $4.6 million salary cap hit. He received no signing bonus as part of his new contract, but will receive smaller roster bonuses just before the season in addition to the June bonus, according to a league source. This move creates more room in which to attempt to re-sign starting guard Derrick Dockery, as well as pursue defensive help when the free agent period begins at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow.
With Brunell in line to be the backup quarterback, veteran Todd Collins could ask for his release to seek more playing time elsewhere. Cutting Collins, who like Fauria was signed before last season, would save another $1 million in cap space. Collins did not take a snap in 2006, while Fauria started slowly, appeared in only nine games, had two receptions for 17 yards, then suffered an ankle injury and was placed on injured reserve in November.
The Redskins are expected to release several other players, including injured place kicker John Hall ($1.5 million savings). Little-used wide receiver David Patten is another candidate, while sources said negotiations on a new contract with veteran defensive end Renaldo Wynn (who carries a $4 million cap tag) have not progressed and that he, too, could be let go, which would save $2.5 million in cap room. Restructuring talks with cornerback Shawn Springs also have stalled, although the nature of his contract makes it more likely he would be let go in June rather than March.
The team is continuing its efforts to keep Dockery, although progress has been very slow and he could hit the open market tomorrow. Safety Vernon Fox and tight end Todd Yoder, both potential free agents, have been in contact with the club and could be retained.
Redskins Notes: The Redskins have been in contact with the Detroit Lions concerning cornerback Dre Bly, who was granted permission to seek a trade. . . . Punter Derrick Frost received an $850,000 qualifying offer yesterday, according to his agent, Robert Lattinville. Barring an offer from another team, Frost likely will sign soon. . . . The Redskins did not issue qualifying offers to defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, making him an unrestricted free agent, but expressed interest in re-signing him at a lower salary later, according to agent James Ivler. . . . The team was not expected to tender a contract to tackle Jim Molinaro, making him an unrestricted free agent. . . . The team announced the signing of backup offensive lineman Mike Pucillo, who received a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, according to sources.