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Redskins Buy Now, Pay Now?

Mar 3, 2005, 12:14 AM EDT

The Redskins made their first signing of the free agent period when they inked Baltimore Ravens’ center Casey Rabach to a five-year contract.

The signing continued a couple of trends for the Redskins in free agency. First of all, they struck quickly, agreeing to terms with Rabach about two and a half hours in to the signing period. From ESPN.com:

The team also got an early start on other team’s free agents, reaching agreement with center Casey Rabach.

Rabach, an unrestricted free agent widely regarded as the top center in the veteran pool, agreed to a multi-year contract early Wednesday morning, only a few hours after the start of the 2005 signing period. It marked the third year in a row that Redskins owner Dan Snyder signed at least one player on the opening day of free agency.

The other continued trend is that Rabach is 27 and entering the what should be the prime of his career. Most of the Redskins’ recent free agent signings have been of players within a year or two of this age.

The trend that didn’t continue, however, is the Redskins’ strategy of putting their free agent spendin sprees on the equivalent of a high-interest credit card, spending for items now that they will have to pay dearly for later. While the reports of the Redskins facing the dreaded “cap hell” in 2006 and beyond are not entirely correct, they have nevertheless had a tendency to minimize the first-year cap hit in recent free agent contracts. They have done this by giving a large signing bonus, the cap impact of which is spread out over the life of the deal, and a minimal salary in the first year of the deal. This has allowed the team to add more free agent veterans than their cap room in a given year would seem to allow.

The Rabach signing, however, is different. It seems that the Redskins, at least in this particular deal, have decided to put a little more up front, make a larger down payment if you will, in order to minimize the cap hit of the contract in later years. From the same ESPN.com article:

Rabach’s contract has a void for the fifth season and also includes a $2.5 million signing bonus and a $2 million roster, which will be guaranteed, according to Clayton

Forget about the voidable fifth year, which is not unusual. What is different is the $2.5 million signing bonus and the $2 million guarantted roster bonus. That’s essentially a $4.5 million signing bonus, which is what other media outlets reported. But there’s a distinction here with a big difference.

A straight signing bonus of $4.5 million would be prorated over the life on the contract, meaning that it would cost the Redskins $900,000 against the cap for each of the next five seasons. By splitting the bonus into signing and roster they way they did, though, the Redskins will have to eat the $2 million roster bonus this year. But that will leave just $2.5 million, or $500,000 a year, to be prorated.

The exact details of the contract have yet to come out so these numbers are just reasonable estimates based on the assumption–a pretty safe one, I’m told–that the guaranteed roster bonus is in the first year of the deal. The cap experts I communicate with have said that it wouldn’t make sense to do the deal any other way, and it explains the report of the $4.5 million signing bonus.

In short, the Redskins did the opposite of what they’ve been doing; they paid more against the cap now to save more later.

To be sure, this is just one contract and it does not mean that there’s a new trend here. But it seems that the Redskins have utilized one more way to manipulate the cap to fit their particular needs.

  1. Anonymous - Mar 3, 2005 at 8:56 AM

    Well, now that Antonio Pierce has defected to the NY Giants, could this move possibly free up enough money to keep Fred Smoot in town??

    This free-agency age is a double-edged sword, imo. The only loyalty anymore is to the almighty $, no more loyalty to teams/team mates. Sad to see. On the plus side, it does allow for teams to persuade talent to their side-still based on the $$……..

  2. Anonymous - Mar 3, 2005 at 12:56 PM

    Well, now that Antonio Pierce has defected to the NY Giants, could this move possibly free up enough money to keep Fred Smoot in town??

    This free-agency age is a double-edged sword, imo. The only loyalty anymore is to the almighty $, no more loyalty to teams/team mates. Sad to see. On the plus side, it does allow for teams to persuade talent to their side-still based on the $$……..

  3. Anonymous - Mar 3, 2005 at 9:02 AM

    what! you mean we are paying now for something that we bought? Its the end of the world. ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

  4. Anonymous - Mar 3, 2005 at 1:02 PM

    what! you mean we are paying now for something that we bought? Its the end of the world. ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

  5. Rich Tandler - Mar 3, 2005 at 9:08 AM

    Pierce is 90% gone, not 100%. Evidently he’s giving the Skins a chance to make a counter proposal to his offer from the Giants, so there is a shot of him staying, although probably not a good chance.

  6. Rich Tandler - Mar 3, 2005 at 1:08 PM

    Pierce is 90% gone, not 100%. Evidently he’s giving the Skins a chance to make a counter proposal to his offer from the Giants, so there is a shot of him staying, although probably not a good chance.

  7. mbarnes202 - Mar 3, 2005 at 10:53 AM

    A six year, $26MM deal w/ a $6.5MM SB is huge money for a MLB … that’s an offer that’s just hard to refuse for Pierce, and very hard for us to justify.

    It certainly hurts, but hopefully WIlliams can find another captain for the D, although off the top of my head, I’m not sure who I’d want to assign the duty of setting up the defense and calling plays.

    My first thought was, well, now lets grab Trotter back, who played more behind the line of scrimmage than Pierce did anyway, but my guess is Trotter will demand what Pierce got, and maybe more. (Pierce may have durability and discipline over Trotter, but Trotter has more bulk and may be a better run stopper.)

    Of course, who we now get to play MLB is a bit of a mystery to me — our depth chart, I think, has Brandon Barnes– no relation ;>)
    Maybe Barrow is healthy enough to play? Maybe Williams CAN make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

  8. mbarnes202 - Mar 3, 2005 at 2:53 PM

    A six year, $26MM deal w/ a $6.5MM SB is huge money for a MLB … that’s an offer that’s just hard to refuse for Pierce, and very hard for us to justify.

    It certainly hurts, but hopefully WIlliams can find another captain for the D, although off the top of my head, I’m not sure who I’d want to assign the duty of setting up the defense and calling plays.

    My first thought was, well, now lets grab Trotter back, who played more behind the line of scrimmage than Pierce did anyway, but my guess is Trotter will demand what Pierce got, and maybe more. (Pierce may have durability and discipline over Trotter, but Trotter has more bulk and may be a better run stopper.)

    Of course, who we now get to play MLB is a bit of a mystery to me — our depth chart, I think, has Brandon Barnes– no relation ;>)
    Maybe Barrow is healthy enough to play? Maybe Williams CAN make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

  9. Andy - Mar 3, 2005 at 10:57 AM

    Who knows Peirce may not be any good. It could have been the D Williams runs that was good not Peirce.

  10. Andy - Mar 3, 2005 at 2:57 PM

    Who knows Peirce may not be any good. It could have been the D Williams runs that was good not Peirce.

  11. Rich Tandler - Mar 3, 2005 at 11:01 AM

    I don’t know if I’d call Barrow a “sow’s ear”, mbarnes. He’s been a pretty solid ballplayer over the years and last year was the first time he’s spent a significant amount of time injured. Of course, at this age, that has to be a concern.

  12. Rich Tandler - Mar 3, 2005 at 3:01 PM

    I don’t know if I’d call Barrow a “sow’s ear”, mbarnes. He’s been a pretty solid ballplayer over the years and last year was the first time he’s spent a significant amount of time injured. Of course, at this age, that has to be a concern.

  13. mbarnes202 - Mar 3, 2005 at 1:44 PM

    Rich,
    Actually, I was referring to Brandon Barnes … but even in his case, it was a bit of hyperbole. I had just assumed that Barrow cannot return- if he does, that’s all the better for us since he knows Williams’ D inside an out.
    My poorly worded comment was simply stating a hope that Williams would be able to work the same magic turning a relative unknown (e.g., Marshall, Clark, Clemons) into a solid starter.
    Actually, I read a lot about Clifton Smith (Syracuse) when we picked him up as an undrafted free agent a couple years back, and I noted we signed him to a two-year deal, so maybe he’s the replacement.

  14. mbarnes202 - Mar 3, 2005 at 5:44 PM

    Rich,
    Actually, I was referring to Brandon Barnes … but even in his case, it was a bit of hyperbole. I had just assumed that Barrow cannot return- if he does, that’s all the better for us since he knows Williams’ D inside an out.
    My poorly worded comment was simply stating a hope that Williams would be able to work the same magic turning a relative unknown (e.g., Marshall, Clark, Clemons) into a solid starter.
    Actually, I read a lot about Clifton Smith (Syracuse) when we picked him up as an undrafted free agent a couple years back, and I noted we signed him to a two-year deal, so maybe he’s the replacement.

  15. Brian "Poundcake" Browning - Mar 3, 2005 at 3:26 PM

    I am sorry to see Pierce go, but I can’t blame him at all. I see his point about this being the only chance he has to make the big $$$. So be it. The truth is that the magic of this defense is not Antonio Pierce – it is the scheme. How else could we wind up as the 3rd best defense in the league, with the injuries we sustained on the defensive side of the ball? It’s the scheme. It’s Greg Williams.

    My hope is that we can now sign Smoot back. With the restructuring of Chris Samuels’ contract, we should have the $14m he wants (and deserves – Smoot is an outstanding corner).

    I think it is critical to get Smoot back at this point. I have all the confidence in the world with Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot. With those two corners, the defense can run safety blitzes at will. Without them, we have to play a LOT more cover-2.

    Anyone hear anything else on Smoot? I think he is supposed to start talking to potential suitors today.

  16. Brian "Poundcake" Browning - Mar 3, 2005 at 7:26 PM

    I am sorry to see Pierce go, but I can’t blame him at all. I see his point about this being the only chance he has to make the big $$$. So be it. The truth is that the magic of this defense is not Antonio Pierce – it is the scheme. How else could we wind up as the 3rd best defense in the league, with the injuries we sustained on the defensive side of the ball? It’s the scheme. It’s Greg Williams.

    My hope is that we can now sign Smoot back. With the restructuring of Chris Samuels’ contract, we should have the $14m he wants (and deserves – Smoot is an outstanding corner).

    I think it is critical to get Smoot back at this point. I have all the confidence in the world with Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot. With those two corners, the defense can run safety blitzes at will. Without them, we have to play a LOT more cover-2.

    Anyone hear anything else on Smoot? I think he is supposed to start talking to potential suitors today.

  17. Doug - Mar 3, 2005 at 4:52 PM

    I hope we retain Smoot, but I’d be a little surprised if we do. He’s going to be a high-priced guy.

    In previous years it seemed like the Redskins just opened up their wallets and handed out money to free agents. We just can’t afford to do that anymore.

    I agree that Williams’ defense is largely a result of his schemes. Therefore, someone should be able to step in and fill Smoot’s shoes, should he leave.

  18. Doug - Mar 3, 2005 at 8:52 PM

    I hope we retain Smoot, but I’d be a little surprised if we do. He’s going to be a high-priced guy.

    In previous years it seemed like the Redskins just opened up their wallets and handed out money to free agents. We just can’t afford to do that anymore.

    I agree that Williams’ defense is largely a result of his schemes. Therefore, someone should be able to step in and fill Smoot’s shoes, should he leave.

  19. Anonymous - Mar 3, 2005 at 5:01 PM

    Dallas giving Anthony Henry a 11 million dollar bonus leads me to believe that Smoot will have no trouble getting a bonus in the 13-15 million range. It will be interesting to see if we pay that, or go get Rolle instead.

    I like that the skins are looking at David Patten. He’s a solid veteran receiver who will give us some deep speed while doing all the little things.

  20. Anonymous - Mar 3, 2005 at 5:01 PM

    Dallas giving Anthony Henry a 11 million dollar bonus leads me to believe that Smoot will have no trouble getting a bonus in the 13-15 million range. It will be interesting to see if we pay that, or go get Rolle instead.

    I like that the skins are looking at David Patten. He’s a solid veteran receiver who will give us some deep speed while doing all the little things.

  21. Anonymous - Mar 3, 2005 at 9:01 PM

    Dallas giving Anthony Henry a 11 million dollar bonus leads me to believe that Smoot will have no trouble getting a bonus in the 13-15 million range. It will be interesting to see if we pay that, or go get Rolle instead.

    I like that the skins are looking at David Patten. He’s a solid veteran receiver who will give us some deep speed while doing all the little things.

  22. Brian "Poundcake" Browning - Mar 3, 2005 at 5:32 PM

    If Rolle is looking for a $15m signing bonus, I would just as soon give that $14m to Smoot. He knows the D and is a “core Redskin”. Plus, he’s younger than Rolle, correct?

    I hadn’t heard that we were looking at Patten – though I think that would be a great addition. Coles, Patten, Jacobs, Thrash and maybe McCants would be a pretty decent WO corps…

  23. Brian "Poundcake" Browning - Mar 3, 2005 at 5:32 PM

    If Rolle is looking for a $15m signing bonus, I would just as soon give that $14m to Smoot. He knows the D and is a “core Redskin”. Plus, he’s younger than Rolle, correct?

    I hadn’t heard that we were looking at Patten – though I think that would be a great addition. Coles, Patten, Jacobs, Thrash and maybe McCants would be a pretty decent WO corps…

  24. Brian "Poundcake" Browning - Mar 3, 2005 at 9:32 PM

    If Rolle is looking for a $15m signing bonus, I would just as soon give that $14m to Smoot. He knows the D and is a “core Redskin”. Plus, he’s younger than Rolle, correct?

    I hadn’t heard that we were looking at Patten – though I think that would be a great addition. Coles, Patten, Jacobs, Thrash and maybe McCants would be a pretty decent WO corps…

  25. mbarnes202 - Mar 3, 2005 at 6:57 PM

    I agree that it appears Smoot might get a SB in the range of $13MM or so … I can understand mgmt’s position that even though it’s a year later, and it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison (different set of FAs avail.), it’s hard to justify a larger SB for Smoot than for Springs.
    Now, if Smoot would accept equal *total* compensation to Springs to go along with that $13MM SB, then I guess I’d be in favor of it.
    Of course, the real problem, the HUGE ALBATROSS around the ‘Skins neck, in my mind, is the patently ridiculous salary/pro-rated SB numbers carried by Brunnel. He’s dead-cap money walking, so to speak– we’ve GOT to cut him next year, right? Before his base jumps over $5MM?

    Mike

  26. mbarnes202 - Mar 3, 2005 at 6:57 PM

    I agree that it appears Smoot might get a SB in the range of $13MM or so … I can understand mgmt’s position that even though it’s a year later, and it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison (different set of FAs avail.), it’s hard to justify a larger SB for Smoot than for Springs.
    Now, if Smoot would accept equal *total* compensation to Springs to go along with that $13MM SB, then I guess I’d be in favor of it.
    Of course, the real problem, the HUGE ALBATROSS around the ‘Skins neck, in my mind, is the patently ridiculous salary/pro-rated SB numbers carried by Brunnel. He’s dead-cap money walking, so to speak– we’ve GOT to cut him next year, right? Before his base jumps over $5MM?

    Mike

  27. mbarnes202 - Mar 3, 2005 at 10:57 PM

    I agree that it appears Smoot might get a SB in the range of $13MM or so … I can understand mgmt’s position that even though it’s a year later, and it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison (different set of FAs avail.), it’s hard to justify a larger SB for Smoot than for Springs.
    Now, if Smoot would accept equal *total* compensation to Springs to go along with that $13MM SB, then I guess I’d be in favor of it.
    Of course, the real problem, the HUGE ALBATROSS around the ‘Skins neck, in my mind, is the patently ridiculous salary/pro-rated SB numbers carried by Brunnel. He’s dead-cap money walking, so to speak– we’ve GOT to cut him next year, right? Before his base jumps over $5MM?

    Mike

  28. Doug - Mar 4, 2005 at 8:56 AM

    Mbarnes, I think most of us agree with you about Brunell. The problem is Joe Gibbs does not agree, and his opinion seems to count a little more than ours.

  29. Doug - Mar 4, 2005 at 8:56 AM

    Mbarnes, I think most of us agree with you about Brunell. The problem is Joe Gibbs does not agree, and his opinion seems to count a little more than ours.

  30. Doug - Mar 4, 2005 at 12:56 PM

    Mbarnes, I think most of us agree with you about Brunell. The problem is Joe Gibbs does not agree, and his opinion seems to count a little more than ours.

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