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Mark Brunell and team currently negotiating. Why?!?!

Per the Washington Post:

Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell said yesterday his agents are negotiating a reworked contract with the team and that he anticipates a resolution to the talks in a few weeks.

Brunell, reached on his cellphone, said he has not given up hope of starting for another team but would only want to be a backup in Washington. Coach Joe Gibbs said he wants to retain Brunell, and the sides are trying to strike a deal that would reduce the amount of Brunell's salary that will be counted against the salary cap.

Mark Brunell is going to cost this team 6.7M in cap space in 2007. He has just over 4.5M in signing bonus remaining, meaning we get fairly substantial savings by cutting him. The article covers all this, but adds this part that I don't quite understand:

The amount the team would save would drop to $1.5 million if it waits until June to release him.
Why? Reader(s) can you help me out? I see no roster bonuses that account for this. By PC's Math (and I trust him) we would save 5.2M in 2007 Dead Space if we cut him after June 1st (1.515M in signing bonus - 6.715M total cap hit = -5.2M).

All of this is relatively semantic, we're either saving 2M or else 5.2M or else 1.5M. In all instances we are saving. The indisputable fact is that Mark Brunell is currently locked into a contract he cannot possibly earn as a backup and likely cannot earn even when starting. I don't say this to be mean to Mark Brunell, who I am actually a big fan of. As a person. Not as my starting QB. Not as my backup for 6.715M a year.

That's why I unequivocally say we cut him, immediately. It will instanter save us 2M in cap space and by 2008 we will be free of all lingering financial obligations to Mark Brunell. That is win/win. Nothing against Mark Brunell, but given our cap situation we simply cannot afford a 6+M backup QB.

What troubles me most is that the team is currently in negotiations with Brunell, which means it is making a bad situation worse. Without knowing the details, I have to assume that Mark Brunell is not agreeing to a pay cut (as I don't know if that is even possible or allowed by the Player's Union). So that means the team is finding a way to turn his 5.2M base salary into guaranteed bonus that can be prorated over the 4 years of his contract. A veteran of his tenure makes, at a minimum, 765K (or around there, I believe). At most, then, the team could turn 4.435M of his base salary into bonuses, prorated over 4 years (1.1M per year, and change). So the maximum saving in a restructure for the team is 6.715M - (765K+1.1M=1.865M) = 4.85M.

Now that is a substantial amount of money, that could go a long way towards freeing up room and signing Dockery. So it's a no-brainer, right?

Absolutely not. You've now turned around 4.6M of guaranteed bonus money into over 9M of guaranteed money that is going to get paid to Mark Brunell no matter what. We think in terms of how much is "saved" in 2007 (a huge 4.85M) but really the payment is just postponed. Driving the point home: again, no matter what, Mark Brunell will get his 2007 salary if we restructure and he remains with the team. And that amount will count against the Washington Redskins cap no matter what.

As Mark Brunell's salary only increases over time (5.2M in 2007, 6.4M in 2008, 7.6M in 2009, 8.8M in 2010(!)) we're going to be having the same discussion every offseason except for two important factors:

  1. Mark Brunell will be a year older and a year further removed from contributing to this team.
  2. Mark Brunell will now have Millions of additional dollars protecting his 2008, 2009, and 2010 salary.
The only conclusion I can reach is that if Mark Brunell cannot earn 5.2M in 2007 -- and that fact drives this negotiation -- then there isn't any way he can earn his increased 2008, 2009, or 2010 salary. By putting his 2007 salary on top of those others, we increase the transaction cost for our future, inevitable cut. And while we should have cut Brunell loose in 2007, we might be forced to keep him in 2008 if only because the dead space hit might be an unbearable burden depending on our cap situation. Even if it isn't "unbearable" (because Brunell's salary will be high enough to make it worthwhile), we'll still have, in a best case scenario, simply postponed our payment of his 2007 salary. If it isn't intelligent to pay that in 2007, it isn't intelligent to do so in 2008 or 2009.

All of this speaks to a general philosophy of this team to simply sweep financial problems under the rug, to be dealt with in a year or two. I disagree strongly with this spending attitude, as it is one of many reasons why we are annually in Cap Purgatory.

Rant almost over, two final points:

  1. If Mark Brunell is negotiating a pay cut (if that is possible) then my entire post is irrelevant.
  2. It shouldn't matter whether Mark Brunell is restructuring 1 dollar or the maximum 4+M on his 2007 base salary. If it isn't worth paying in the here and now, it isn't worth paying next year, either.
The article ends with this relevant nugget:
Redskins Notes : The Redskins are expected to target Buffalo Bills linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Nate Clements in free agency next month, according to multiple league sources who have spoken with team officials. . .
We'll see if we can afford either. And I don't mean that in the immediate sense, because if the Redskins want one of them they will get them. But the "affordability" of a player, like their contract, extends well past the year you sign them. Our inability to recognize that is one of many things that distinguishes teams with a lot of cap space from Your Washington Redskins.