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Good news on the Mark Brunell deal

Per Redskins Insider:

Heard from some people this morning that the Skins and Mark Brunell reached an agreement on a new contract last night and that Mark will probably sign the thing soon.
I first read this, clenched my fists to the air and cursed fiscal irresponsibility. But wait...
Instead of Mark counting nearly $7 million against the cap, he'll count probably less than half of that total (don't have the exact numbers yet but will get them). It's effectively a 1 year deal (on paper it's a 4 year deal but the final three years automatically void out), making Mark a free agent this time next year.

He got no signing bonus, but will get a roster bonus and a base salary around the vet. min. for him ($820,000). All told it will likely cost the Skins about $2.0-$3.0 million against the cap (I am told he ends up making essentially the league average for backups).

First off let me just say that I thought we were simply shifting salary to guaranteed bonus, whereas it appears as if we've actually gotten Mark Brunell to take (effectively) a pay cut. This would explain why negotiations were taking so long as he actually had something to lose and us something to gain.

Why or how did this happen? As Canfora notes, there is a positive for Brunell as well. He gets a guarantee of income in 2007 which he might not have if forced to hit the market. Also he gets to stay in Washington where he knows the Coaching staff, ostensibly has a home and likes the area, so on and so forth. He's only under contract for a year, but that's a year longer than a nearly 38 year old QB coming off surgery is likely to get anyways.

This adds an entire new level to the Shawn Springs negotiations, as it is now clear to me that they're asking him to take a similar pay cut. I'm not sure how the team negotiates such deals, but they must essentially say "You're either going to sign this or else get cut" and then it's just a function of writing a contract that is better than the alternative. Threatening cuts only goes so far because the player can call the bluff, and Brunell couldn't call the bluff (because it wasn't). Shawn Springs can.

Keep in mind that Mark Brunell did not restructure his old contract. He (allegedly) signed a brand new one. There are huge advantages to this that I have outlined when criticizing restructures, namely that you force the player to work for a fair-ish wage. Restructures simply play musical chairs with money in a way that prolongs but does not eliminate wasteful spending.

There are disadvantages, though I consider them acceptably necessary. When signing new players, they might be more hesitant to sign longterm contracts with tail-end increases in their salary because they  could easily recognize that the team has no intention of paying them or of asking them to sign new contracts in a few years. This is fine years later when the team gets the new deal done, but it could cause players and agents to place a higher emphasis on gaming their contracts with the Redskins by inserting more guaranteed money or else clauses that protect their player from cuts (through guaranteed money).

For now, I'm extremely pleased. I really thought the team was simply going to turn base salary into guaranteed money but instead they played hardball and (allegedly) reached an agreement with a player that is satisfactory to both parties. Mark Brunell is as fine a backup as many/most teams could expect to have, especially with his experience in this offense.

I remain extremely adverse to restructures as a viable long-term strategy. Forcing new contracts is riskier, but with greater risk comes greater reward. And that's exactly what we (allegedly) got.

Will update once official word is released.