Not sure if you've heard, but the Washington Redskins are having some trouble with the NFL's salary cap. As a result of $18 million in penalties left over from last year when the other owners decided they didn't like the way the Redskins structured contracts in the uncapped 2012 season, the Redskins are struggling to get under the cap in advance of the start of free agency Tuesday.
The way many teams do this is by restructuring player contracts and pushing larger cap hits back into future seasons by converting salary to signing bonus and pro-rating it over the life of the contract. The Redskins under Mike Shanahan have stayed away from this tactic, believing it only puts off a problem rather than solving it. But as Rich Tandler writes, they may have no choice this year:
The Redskins are left with six contracts that they can restructure that can create some significant cap savings -- Trent Williams, Pierre Garcon, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Chris Chester, and Will Montgomery.
To go straight to the bottom line, a full, traditional restructure of each of those six players’ contracts would create about $15.15 million of cap space in 2013. The price would be an extra $5.29 million against the cap in 2014 and 2015 and about $2.54 million in 2016. That may not be ideal but essentially they can spread most of the impact of the $18 million cap penalty over the next 3-4 years.
Given the way some other teams routinely restructure to dump their cap hits into future seasons, those figures seem palatable. Combined with an expected pay cut for (or outright release of) cornerback DeAngelo Hall, those restructures would get the Redskins in compliance with this year's cap and allow them room to sign their draft picks and tender their restricted free agents. It would not create enough room for them to be big players on the free-agent market, and it would limit them to a certain extent in future years (though not as much as the penalties have limited them in the last two).
There are other means of creating space, of course. Some are simple, such as extending players in the final years of their contracts such as London Fletcher or Brian Orakpo and spreading bonus money out further. Some are drastic, such as cutting valued players like Santana Moss, Adam Carriker or (far less likely, but not impossible) Orakpo. Moss and Carriker could also be pay-cut candidates.
The point is, the Redskins are forced to maneuver in ways they'd rather not maneuver with players they'd like to keep happy, and even once they do it they still won't have much freedom to play the market. It's a messy situation, but it's Washington's reality right now. Getting through this final offseason of the cap penalty won't be fun or easy.