Hall was one of the Redskins' most polarizing players, his deficiencies and antics often upstaging his talent on the field. And he certainly wasn't worth an $8 million salary in 2013. But to hallelujah over this move is to ignore the role Hall played in the Redskins' 2012 second-half surge and division title. The job he did on wide receiver Dez Bryant in the division-clinching victory over Dallas in Week 17 will remain one of the key stories of that game.
And I think that's important to remember here, as we assess this move in the larger context. The salary-cap penalties the league levied against the Redskins last year are having a definite effect. Mike Shanahan said in a Monday news conference that he figures it has cost them a chance to sign six to eight players over the past two seasons. GM Bruce Allen called the penalties "a travesty of fairness," and if you read this blog regularly you know that I agree. But they are a significant reality of the Redskins' life right now, and the Hall news reflects that.
The Redskins didn't want to cut Hall. For all of his faults and foibles, they liked him and appreciated his value to their coverage schemes. The fact that they didn't work to convince him to take a pay cut, as he'd said he would, indicates that this was a move they had to make. After signing four of their own restricted free agents as well as unrestricted free agent Kory Lichtensteiger to long-term deals to keep their 2013 cap numbers low, they still had to cut Hall and restructure the contract of defensive end Adam Carriker in order to get under the cap by Tuesday's 4 pm ET deadline. Shanahan said at the news conference that the Redskins are now about $1 million under, and if my experience with coaches and executives has taught me anything, he's estimating high.
Even if he's not, this is where the Redskins stand as free agency starts. They need a cornerback to replace Hall. They need a starting safety. They need a right tackle. (Tony Pashos, whose signing was also announced Monday, is likely a backup at this point.) They do not have a first-round draft pick. When and if they get close on a deal with a free agent they like, they're going to have to get further under the cap in order to sign him. That means the moves aren't done. Wide receiver Santana Moss remains a candidate for a pay cut or to be released. They could still end up having to restructure other contracts and shift salary-cap money into future years, a practice of which the Shanahan/Allen administration have worked hard to steer clear. They may not be able to re-sign valuable linebacker and special-teamer Lorenzo Alexander.
The decisions the Redskins don't want to make have begun, and they may have to continue. Such is the effect of the cap penalties on the reigning NFC East champions. They've done well to retain as much of the core of their 10-6 team as they have, but this isn't going to be a very fun offseason for the Redskins or their fans.