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What's do be done with this Adam Archuleta?

Jason La Canfora's Redskins Insider tries to make heads or tails of the "Adam Archuleta Problem" or "How the fudgesticks do we get ourselves out of his 30 million dollar contract now that we've resigned him to special teams duty?"

As of now Archuleta had a $5 Million dollar signing bonus. On a 7 year contract that's just over 700,000 of cap space a year, 700,000 of which we've already paid. If we cut him, the remaining 4.3 mil would count against our cap next year. Bad, but not unthinkable.

He also has a 5 million dollar option. La Canfora's intuition would be to not excercise the option and cut the player. He would count 4.3 mil against next year's cap and we'd be rid of him. That's totally manageable.

Not so fast.

There is language in the contract saying that if the Skins do not pick up the option, then Archuleta's base salaries the next three seasons automatically escalate to higher sums and become guaranteed. That last word is the key one. Base salaries up here are generally not guaranteed, which gives bozos like Drew Rosenhaus something to whine about.
Even if they don't "escalate", his salary over the next 3 years hikes up to 5.6 million. If guaranteed, all that money is owed in next year's cap space if we cut him. That's a good 5.6 million, + the remaining 4.3 million of signing bonus in 2007 bonus, for about 10 million in dead cap space (dead cap space being the cap moneys spent on players who are not on your roster). As the current salary cap is just over 100 million, this would mean about 10% of our total salary cap space was being paid to Adam Archuleta so he could play for someone else (or not at all).

Let's reflect on how clever that contract is for Adam Archuleta. Salaries are not typically guaranteed, which is why players have signing bonuses. Ostensibly a signing bonus is designed to protect players from getting shafted when their (most of the time) not-guaranteed salaries increase over time, as they do with Archuleta. His goes from 1 mil to 4 mil from 2008-2009. Non-guaranteed salary is void if the player is cut, meaning if his salary wasn't guaranteed we could've cut him after '08 and been none the wiser after paying his very manageable remaining 3-4 someodd million in signing bonuses.

In any event, Archuleta, perhaps knowing something about Adam Archuleta that the Redskins didn't, cleverly snuck in the cut-me-my-salary-becomes-guaranteed-screw-you clause.

So we are not going to just cut him now. The other two remaining solutions La Canfora outlines. Here's one:

So, the Skins could opt to exercise that $5 mil option, then cut Archuleta after June 1, should they decide that it's just not working here and they can't afford to pay the captain of their punt protection team or whatever he is that much dinero. In that case, the Skins would take a $1.83 mil cap hit in 2007, and face $7.165 in dead-cap money in 2008.
Meh, it's not good but it's not horrible. If we don't excercise the option he gets about 5.6 mil guaranteed one way or another. If we do excercise the option we can avoid much of that 5.6 mil, but we are stuck with his next year's salary; about 600,000 worth.

And the other:

If the Skins do not exercise the option, then Arch makes a guaranteed $595,000 in '07, a cool mil in '08 and $3.405 in '09. He's going to get that cash regardless, and the only way he might get a 'lil less is through a renegotiate, but the presence of the guaranteed salary clause basically negates any incentive to do that.
The numbers aren't the same as mine because I'm getting them from the NFL Players Association. I don't know where Canfora gets his, but they're comparable. This isn't a bad option, but it would benefit us to actually use Archuleta for those three years in this situation. Once we cut him, all moneys unpaid from the guaranteed amount count towards the following year's salary cap. One way or the other, this team is going to give Adam Archuleta 5.6+ million dollars and it will count against the cap.

And finally "the most likely scenario" according to La Canfora's "dudes":

Skins opting not to exercise the option, and keeping AD for one more year. With the guarantees kicking in, he'd count $1.59 mil against the cap in 2007 - not great but not a backbreaker - which would allow the team flexibility to bring in other players. They could then cut him in 2008, which would accelerate the rest of the money due him and result in a $7.4 mil hit, which is essentially what it would cost them in 2008 dead money to cut Arch Deluxe in 2007, and then they would be getting nothing from him at all next season.
I don't much care for this scenario either. It's just putting off our cap problems an additional year which is very "Redskinesque" but not terribly helpful in building a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Count me in the camp with the middle option. I say we refuse to excercise the option, make the 5.6 someodd million guaranteed, and then eventually cut him in 2009 once all the guaranteed salary is already (or close to) paid. Then we avoid the 5, 6, and 5 million we'd owe him in '10, '11, and '12 respectively. Mind you I don't know what other hidden contractual clauses lurk to screw us over late in his contract, but given the above I'd rather take a slow death over many years than a big one in 2007 or 2008.

Also, I don't necessarily think Adam Archuleta is unuseable. He's listed at 223, which is just 4 pounds lighter than our middle linebacker Lemar Marshall. Archuleta is much better against the run than the pass and, despite his dumpy play and starting just 7 games, he is still 3rd on the team in tackles.

So we have this impressively overpaid player who isn't reliable enough to leave in the secondary and probably a bit small to play linebacker. He isn't drastically small, but definitely undersized for a continuous series linebacker. Can't we find a place for this guy? Especially if we are forced to commit to him for 3 years (or pay him for that amount, one way or another)? It wouldn't take too much bulking up for him to size up well with Warrick Holdman, who is on the small side himself at 235. Whatever you may think about Archuleta's covering skills he can't be as bad as Holdman. And I wonder whether he would be any worse against the run; teams already target our soft weak side because it's better than running at Marcus Washington.

Surely there are packages that play to Archuleta's advantages. He moves well in the backfield and gets after QBs. I've heard he's a bad tackler but I haven't seen as much of that personally. I think his biggest problem is an inability to cover and horrible pursuit angles. You can limit the former by not playing him as a safety, where coverage skills are a necessity. And you can mitigate the latter by putting him on the line of scrimmage where he has run support behind him.

Lined up against a Tight End in coverage isn't that much of a mismatch if Archuleta has safety help over the top, either. He's a great alternative to a cornerback in manning up with a Tight End throughout the game given the size differential with those positions. Archuleta can muscle up with a TE where a 190-200 pound cornerback cannot. There are enough teams that utilize Tight Ends essentially as receivers, or use them enough as TEs, to justify having a specialist around.

He's also faster than a linebacker (and not much smaller) on stretch runs to the outside or in the backfield on blitzing plays.

I just think it's foolish that we write him off as a non-contributor because he didn't fit (and it should've been obvious) as a coverage safety given the amount we'll have to pay him. Coverage has never been his strength. But I have enough faith in Gregg Williams to think that he can get something out of this player. Perhaps not the 6 someodd mil we'll be forced to pay him, but at least something to even out our losses.

If he got enough snaps in packages on defense, combined with solid special teams contribution, I think we could turn an unprecedented into merely a bad bargain. Anyone else?