The answer lies in actual money paid and the risk of future salary-cap misery. First of all, not everyone has Snyder's gold-lined pockets. According to official league figures sent to each club and dated Nov. 25, 2003, the Redskins led the NFL in "dead money" -- cash paid out to players no longer employed by the team -- last year with $14.5 million. That figure was double the league average of $7.3 million. In 2001, they paid out $14.8 million to players no longer on their team and $13 million in 2002. For fans, that may seem like the price of doing business, but most bosses would be reluctant to shell out $45 million for people who don't work for them anymore.
-Sportsline.com's Pete Prisco
I get asked everywhere I go, "How can he fit all these players and more players under his salary cap?" Here's a few things to remember. One, the Redskins created $10 million of cap space by cutting players under contract. Bruce Smith, Jessie Armstead, Lional Dalton and Bryan Barker are all gone. Two, they got out from under the franchise tag of $6.8 million on Champ Bailey and then proceeded to use significant signing bonus money to make their new deals cap friendly. Ten million dollars in space can last a very long time if you are pushing signing bonuses up into the range of 35 percent of the contracts.
Let's just look at Portis for instance as it compares to Bailey, who was traded to get Portis. As I said, Bailey was on the cap ledger for a $6.8 million tender. He moves on, and Portis, who signed an eight-year deal for $50 million -- got an $18 million bonus. Divide the number of years (eight) into the signing bonus ($18 million) to calculate the cap charge for the bonus each year ($2.25 million) and add it to the salary that could be as low as $380,000 because Portis only has two credited seasons. Now his cap charge is $2.63 million, which is $4.2 million less than Bailey was on the books for.
Daniels was hired to replace Smith. Smith was an $8.8 million charge before his termination and even though he still counts on the books for $2.6 million in dead money, the Redskins have Daniels on the cap spread sheet for a much lower number. He got a $3 million bonus, it was a five-year deal, so the yearly cap charge on his bonus is $600,000 plus his salary, which could be under $1 million. Now he fits on the cap for about $1.2 million.
So it can be done. Also keep in mind that only the top 51 salaries on the roster count this time of year, so each time the Redskins sign a big-name player and fit him under the cap with a big signing bonus, the lowest paid player on the top 51 drops off the books as a cap charge. A young player like linebacker Clifton Smith on the books as a $305,000 charge will come off the books and be handled as a cap rebate. If they sign five high-priced players and five players drop off, that turns into a million dollars worth of cap space.
The question is, if the free-agency program fails, will there be problems in future years paying back the cap for the bonuses spread out over years? For example, Brunell got $8.6 million to sign a seven-year deal, which fits nicely under the cap. But if he were to have a career-ending injury next year, the cap hit in 2005 would be over $7 million. Now that hurts.
The truth is, no one knows who will get hurt and who will stay healthy. But there is some risk to the Redskins' plan. Nonetheless, I can't fault them for trying to bring a Super Bowl to Washington.
By Pat Kirwan
NFL.com Senior Analyst
I found this on NFL.COM under the article called "Capital Gains"
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