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Salary Cap discussion begins

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As we've all by now heard, the team is going to have to make some tough decisions on who stays and who goes because we are somewhere in the 26M dollar range over the 119 million dollar 2008 cap. Per the Times:

The Redskins at this point exceed the $116 million salary cap for next season by about $21 million. Springs, Griffin and Daniels -- all thirtysomething defensive starters -- are among 18 Redskins who count more than $3 million against the 2008 cap.
There are some excellent salary cap related resources over on the left hand side of this webpage. Ian Whetstone compiles info on all the teams, but updates are provided sparingly (it's a ton of information). Warpath Redskins Cap Info probably has the most comprehensive Redskins coverage, but my favorite is PC's Salary Cap Info because it is updated frequently and is the easiest to consume, in my opinion. (Also check out The Hogs Salary Cap Info for annual numbers that are easy to read.)

I'm going to look specifically at PC's contract details page and see if I can't figure out how much dead weight we can easily eliminate. This list is going to be limited by people I wouldn't have a problem letting go of due to the amount they are paid. The team will unfortunately have to make some very tough decisions and I wanted to limit the discussion, as of this moment at least, to the easier decisions. Don't wait on me to start that discussion though...

A caveat: I am no more a salary cap guru than any of you. I look at data and try to draw reasonable inferences from it. Having done so for two years, often times in error, I've learned a decent amount about how the cap works and feel like I can at least interpret the data responsibly. I'm not always right, but I try my best. In any event, per PC's, updated just a few days ago, the Redskins are currently budgeted at nearly 135M. From above, the salary cap next year will be 116M. That means we need to clear up ~ 19M dollars worth of salary cap space, which is no easy task. Here are some proposals, and I'd love to hear you voice your agreement and dissent in the comments:

Cut Mark Brunell - His base salary in 2008 is 5M dollars, which I believe is just vestigial moneys from an earlier contract. He restructured last year to take a pay cut, but the team didn't make him lower his base salary in future seasons. I don't know why. His base salary this year was 1.5M which was a huge sum to pay a backup quarterback. He's 3rd on the bench and wouldn't be worth 5M even as our immediate backup. He will not see over a 300% increase in salary. If he wants to take a paycut and restructure to stay with the team, I'm fine with that. But this organization, any organization, really, can hardly afford to pay that sum to someone who sees so little field. I count about 3M in remaining bonuses that will need to be paid to Mr. Brunell should we cut him. That's 3M in dead cap offset by saving the 5M we'd owe him this year, for a saving of around 2M -- more if we cut him after June 1st, as the 3M would be prorated over two years. In any event, the simple act of cutting Mark Brunell immediately saves us 10% of the remaining moneys above the cap.

Brandon Lloyd is complicated - I'm not a B. Lloyd supporter anymore because of what he's failed to do for this team. It wouldn't hurt me if he wasn't on the roster tomorrow. But, as strange as this sounds, I don't know if he gets cut or not. What I see from PC's is that he'll make just ~ 600K in base next year with a 1.8M bonus to be paid out later this year, I think. You also have prorated signing bonuses totaling 3M remaining, as well as "OB Allocation" -- whatever that is, probably a prior roster bonus that was paid prorated over the remainder of his contract -- of ~ 4M remaining. So total saved by cutting him would be the 600K salary and the 1.8M roster bonus, 2.4M. Total dead cap hit, which could also be prorated by a June 2nd cut, would be 7M I think. The only way I see us saving money is if we cut him after June 2nd, but then we really aren't "saving" money so much as we are paying out a large portion over the course of two years. Since money is seemingly more scarce now than it will be in 2009 (I hope!) then maybe that is still the best available option.

Some players need to be restructured - I hate this strategy as it is constant restructuring that has gotten us into this position. Restructuring contracts simple turns unguaranteed salary into guaranteed bonus money that is paid out immediately but counts against the cap prorated over the course of the contract. This is a necessary evil in financially troubled times. The problem is that when you shift the money to guaranteed bonus, you will pay it no matter what. So if I turn half of Samuels 2009 base salary (5M) then I prorate 2.5M over the course of the contract. When the day comes for cutting Chris Samuels, perhaps prior to 2009, I'm still going to end up paying his 2009 base salary against the cap because now that money is guaranteed. It makes it more difficult to cut players for all the reasons we're looking at now; if a player has a lower salary than they do remaining guaranteed money, it doesn't make fiscal sense to cut them since that will actually cost the team more in the present than letting them play out another year. When you're down damn near 20M, though, you have to restructure. Who to restructure? People with high base salaries like Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels, Clinton Portis, etc. If I had my druthers, I'd target a guy like Clinton Portis. He's younger than the other high-base-salary players (like Marcus Washington, 30, Samuels, 30, and Jansen, 31) and thus could be with the team a long time. I don't see us needing to cut him within the next 3 years, or at least seeing that as much as, say, Jansen needing to be let go within the next three. At 31 with injuries every few years, it is merely a matter of time before the game outlives some of our aging linemen. That's unfortunate.

I got nothing else for now, as a examining the salary cap quagmire doesn't yield any truly simple solutions sans the Brunell issue. Some people will be asked to restructure, some may be asked to take paycuts, others will simply be cut. The reality here is that many of the players you love watching won't be wearing burgundy and gold forever, and by forever what I really mean is this year. This stuff is immensely complicated and I don't understand it all too well, so make sure you review the figures for yourself and keep me honest with corrections in the comments section. I do not at all guarantee the accuracy of anything stated above, it just happens to be my best guess from a pedestrian understanding of the salary cap. I do my best. I was not a math major.

Update [2008-1-10 14:18:15 by Skin Patrol]: Bonuses due this year per REdskins Insider:
Andre Carter - $2.4 million
Ladell Betts - $2 million
Brandon Lloyd - $1.8 million
Phillip Daniels - $1.1 million
Yes, yes, no, maybe -- I say.