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celts32 02-16-2006 11:53 PM

Notebook: Redskins close to tipping from cap

By Pete Prisco
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Pete your opinion!

How would you like to be Eric Schaffer, the cap man for the Washington Redskins? Your boss is the combustible Dan Snyder and your cap is a mess, so much so that two cap experts from other teams who looked at it say it's as bad as they've seen.

We pity poor Schaffer, who isn't to blame. It's not his fault Snyder throws money around as if he prints it, snubbing the reality that cap jail will eventually swallow his team whole.

"I'm glad I'm not Eric," said one of the cap experts. "That thing is a mess."

According to NFLPA figures, the Redskins have $115.4 million committed in salary for their top 51 players in 2006. The cap is expected to be $92 to $95 million. That means they have to trim $20 million or so. And that's not counting the $2 million or so the team will need to sign its rookies (thankfully, they don't have a first-round pick to pay, or that would be higher).

The Redskins have done a decent job trimming their cap down in recent years, but this time it might not be possible -- certainly not without a new collective bargaining agreement. A new agreement could help relieve some of the cap problems, but even with one, the Redskins face a daunting task.

"If they reduced everybody to a veteran minimum, and that won't happen, they'd still be $4 million over the cap," said one of the cap experts. "That's before cutting anybody."

So how did it get this bad? The Redskins have paid out big money deals under Snyder, and some of them have blown up in the team's face, leading to the chase factor. You chase bad deals with more bad deals to compensate.

Thus, they have trouble.

When room got tight in the past, they extended players' deals to create room, spreading bonus amortization out over the years. Eventually, though, it becomes time to pay the piper.

That time is now.

Compare the Redskins' plight to a family that keeps putting off paying the credit card balance by paying minimums.

"All the deals, all the overpaying for years and moving money into future years has caught up to them," said the cap expert. "Last year they had to move $7 million in money into future years. That catches up to you at some point."

One cap expert said the Redskins might be forced to let good players walk, and could be forced to field a team with as many as 20 rookies -- or more.

If there's a new CBA, the Redskins might be able to get out from under the cap troubles a little easier, although it still will be a lot of work.

"Can you imagine the dynamics of what Schaffer is going through?" one cap expert said. "He has to go to Snyder and Joe Gibbs and tell them they have to cut players. That has to be ugly,"

Cap hell. It's as ugly as it gets in the NFL, and it's a jail that's hard to get paroled out of.

Still think the Redskins will be a playoff contender?

Joe Gibbs has his work cut out for him this season. Maybe auto racing never looked so good.

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