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Did the Redskins Overpay?

Mar 15, 2006, 12:36 PM EDT

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As the Redskins have signed free agent after free agent over the past few days, the questions have kept popping up. How are they pulling this off with their supposed cap problems? And did they overpay for what they got?

The answer to the first one is easy. The Redskins’ cap guru, Eric Schaffer, is simply the best in the business. The organization doesn’t just throw around money; Schaffer crafts out each deal dollar by dollar, year by year to ensure that it fits within the team’s projected cap situation. The way Snyder runs the team generates the cash flow—cash beats cap—but it’s Schaffer who puts it all together.

Without going into details, (I’ve been told that the eyes of most of my readers here glaze over at such information) through the creative manipulation of the cap Schaffer and his team, helped by Snyder’s cash, can fit a six-year, $30 million contract with $10 million guaranteed into cap space of under $2 million in the first year.

And what about the other $28 million? Aren’t they just mortgaging the future, putting it on a big credit card that will come due at some point in the future?

Not really. To continue the credit card analogy, there a plenty of people out there who run up large credit card debts that manage them just fine. The bill for the balance never “comes due” as long as the money is managed properly with an eye towards the future. The debt can be refinanced and restructured as needed. You can keep on making purchases on the card as long as you stay under the limit and keep an eye towards the future. And you figure that as the years go by, you should be making more money, making the debt smaller relative to your income

The salary cap never “comes due”. It’s an ongoing thing. You can push money into future years indefinitely. As long as you don’t push too much into one season, you can keep doing it. Deals can be restructured and money pushed back. And the cap goes up from year to year, devaluing the dollars that you are pushing back.

To be sure, others use such maneuvers, but few do it as frequently and with such careful regard for the implications down the road as Schaffer does. Words like genius and mastermind get thrown around too often, but they apply to Schaffer. Should the team collect another Lombardi trophy in the next few years, Schaffer’s name should be engraved on it.
Perhaps one day the Petes and Lenny’s of the world will learn to praise the Skins’ cap management instead of predicting disaster year after year and then making snide comments about cheating when their forecasts bear no relationship to reality. I guess they’d rather continue to be wrong.

That’s how they paid. Now, did they overpay?

There is nary a Pro Bowl appearance among Adam Archuleta, Andre Carter, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El. No league leadership in interceptions, receptions, or sacks among them. There are some highlight-reel moments starring some of these guys, no doubt. But their respective resumes, while better than pedestrian, are hardly the gold standard.

No gold changed hands, but a Brinks truck with some $40 million of guaranteed cash in it backed up to the facility at Redskins Park and dumped it on these four players (actually, Lloyd has not yet signed his deal, but he will get something in the neighborhood of $10 million guaranteed when he does). Did the Redskins pay filet mignon money for ground chuck?

First of all, in the year 2006, that is not filet mignon money. That went to center LeCharles Bentley, who the Browns are paying $36 million over six years with $12 million guaranteed, guard Steve Hutchison who will be paid $49 million over 7 years by either the Vikings or Seahawks, and running back Edgerrin James, who gets over $11 million guaranteed out of a four year, $30 million deal.

One thing that a lot of folks—media and fans alike—don’t seem to grasp is the fact that there is a lot more money to be spent this year than last. You hear a lot that each team’s cap went up $7.5 million due to the CBA extension. What you don’t hear much is that the cap was already slated to go up by $10 million even before the new labor agreement. Multiply that $17.5 million increase from 2005 to 2006 times the 32 NFL teams and you have over half a billion—that’s billion with a “b”—new cap dollars in play. It’s simple economics; when the money supply goes up, so do prices.

Still, it appears that the Redskins were happy to pay these guys more than anyone else was willing to. So, by that definition, they did overpay.
But if you get the player you want, it is really overpaying? Is it better to settle for someone who might save you a million or two but doesn’t quite fit your needs? A $2 million difference in guaranteed money on a six-year deal is $333,333 a season, or just less than the two-year veteran minimum salary. It adds up, no doubt, but it shouldn’t be enough to make you settle for second best.

Time will tell. Ultimately, the only thing that matters, the only way to judge whether or not the Redskins forked over too much money for a player, is results on the field. If the Redskins win and the new players fill their expected roles, it will have been worth every dollar and then some. If the team is not successful, it will be as though they had put a match to a dump truck full of $100 bills.

  1. Joe - Mar 15, 2006 at 3:13 PM

    It’s easy to make the case for Lloyd and Randle El. It was clear last year that our offense didn’t have the right cast of characters. Those guys, along with Moss, Cooley, Patten and Sellers should wake up the passing game. (Maybe we’ll eventually have a Manny White Jr sighting, too.)

    It’s not clear to me why we needed Archuleta and/or Carter. Both of them were drafted early and regarded as underachievers by their team. Conversely, the guys we had at those spots, Ryan Clark and Demetric Evans, although undrafted, overachieved and exceeded expectations. The Redskins have long been accused of giving up on their own budding stars to chase the big name free agents. (Signing Bruce Smith while watching Kalu go to the Eagles comes to mind.)

    To be fair, Griffen was regarded as an underachiever with the Giants and he has turned out to be anything but that. The difference, of course, is that there wasn’t a star on the rise at DT when he arrived. Maybe Archuleta and Carter will turn out to be game-changers like Griffen. If not, then these moves add fuel to the argument that the Redskins don’t “take care of their own.”

  2. mbarnes202 - Mar 15, 2006 at 3:25 PM

    Rich,
    I’m sure you read the “mail bag” of Peter King in his TMQ and saw the same question– folks predicted cap disaster for the ‘Skins in ’03: didn’t happen. Ditto ’04; didn’t happen. Ditto ’05: didn’t happen. Ditto ’06: didn’t happen.
    I so wanted to reply to King when he replied that it didn’t happen because the cap increased so much. DUH!! I guess NO ONE could have predicted the cap would increase by that much. Moron.
    Also, I also agree we get seemingly no credit for the FAs we did bring in who have really improved our team. Santana Moss and Cornelius Griffen (or Marcus Washington, take your pick) were our offensive and defensivce MVPs, and all were FAs. The media seem to take a “glass half empty” approach and say that just means we have poor drafting.
    Now, I will say that our aggressive cap management leaves us with fewer options than the Eagles of the world. They’re in a “virtuous cycle” whereby they don’t sign FAs, always lose more than they gain, and end up with compensatory picks; some as high as the third round. Those picks end up as cheap labor and good depth. (Actually, I think the rules on compensatory picks are horrible– the Seahawks could lose Hutchinson and pick up two scrubs and get nothing, while the Eagles can lose 5 scrubs and pick up one superstar, and get four compensatory picks. Makes no sense.)
    I do think we end up on the high end of salary offers– time will tell, but Archuleta, a strong safety, $10-$12MM guaranteed? $10-$12MM guaranteed for your 3rd WR??? And, with a little more cap room, we could have kept Antonio Pierce, whom I think would have made our defense even better than it was.
    So my two cents is that given our fairly average (or below average) scouting ability out of college, it’s crucial to have good scouting and good cap management to pick up the FAs. And it often works out when we sign the player to the big deal, but the risk is that the player gets hurt or disenfranchised, and we eat $8-$10MM in cap dollars for a player no longer on the team, like Arrington, and Coles before him, and Stephen Davis before him, etc., etc.

  3. Anonymous - Mar 15, 2006 at 5:45 PM

    I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding Len, Peter king, etc. It seems like lazy journalism to continue to use the same “frame” regarding the ‘Skins’ front office and its philosophy. I am curious to see how or if this frame changes with continued success.

    As for overpaying, we did. However, who cares if the Danny overpays. As has been demonstrated by his cap guru, he can without mortgaging the future. Embrace this redskins nation. We have an owner who will spend, but spend intelligently in regards to future caps. We pay high prices at games, but we are rewarded with an absolute reassurance that the owner who gets that money demands what we demand…WINNING!!! As I type this I am in philly listening to Eagles fans bitch about an owner making money hand over fist and not reinvesting in his team. CHEERS!

    My only wish: Now that we have a good core, can we stop trading away draft picks?

  4. Joe - Mar 15, 2006 at 6:57 PM

    Good to see some chatter starting up again. With regards to anonymous, you’re absolutely correct about writers prejudging the Redskins. Continued success will just bring more scrutiny. Embrace the fact that they hate us.

    While we’re bashing King, did anyone catch this a week ago:

    “I think just for the sake of insuring trust in the salary cap from some skeptical front offices, the league needs to make sure LaVar Arrington is really going to forego the $4 million in guaranteed money to get his freedom now. Not saying it didn’t happen, but… the league needs to double check that the accounting of this is clean.”

    Where does this guy get off claiming that Snyder and Gibbs are fraudulently trying to circumvent the rules? You would have to be pretty vindictive to even suggest such a thing. What’s his problem?

    And did you catch his response in TMQ to the guy who suggested giving some credit to the Redskins: “We’ll see.” Good job, Peter. You’re about as unbiased as Al Franken.

    As for Len, I stopped reading espn.com because of him. There are plenty of other great places for sports news. I suppose he’s probably still carrying on with his anti-Redskins nonsense, but I wouldn’t know. My life is more peaceful when I don’t pay attention to him.

  5. brett - Mar 15, 2006 at 7:53 PM

    “So far, all we’ve seen is a collection of the old (Kevin Mawae, Kimo von Oelhoffen), the physically damaged (Jamal Lewis, Drew Brees) and the most sure-to-fail free agents out there, guys Daniel Snyder signed (Antwaan Randle El, Adam Archuleta, etc.).” – Andrew Perloff, cnnsi.com

    Gotta love the love the Danny gets.

    On to more important comments. This armchair QB entered the offseason needing 3 questions answered. Can the defense remain elite? Can the offense improve? Can Brunell stay upright for a season? Answers?

    The biggest deficiency in Greg Williams’ personnel was a pash rushing dlineman. Andre Carter, check. He can rush from the end or in a 3-4 as a LB. Is Taylor going to play in a prison league or the league? Archuletta is a pretty good insurance policy. If Taylor is playing, imagine the headaches a QB will have trying to figure which safety is coming. Hopefully we can add some CB depth.

    If Al Saunder’s scheme doesn’t work with these tools, no offense will. In KC he had pocket passer, a great runner, a pass catching TE, a dynamic returner/3rd wide out and NO RECEIVERS. Now he has all of the above AND Moss, Lloyd (this guy’s a stud in the making), and patten. Scary.

    Now Brunell, who I think is the key to any superbowl run. He has to stay healthy. This brings me back to Saunders. Trent Green can’t move, but never got hurt. Saunders will protect the passer by running it effectively and using the play pass. Don’t get me wrong, I would love a premier QB, but Brunnell shouldn’t keep us from a deep playoff run.

    From my seat we answered all of my concerns with absolute clarity.

    Hate all you want America, we are rich, loaded with talent and coached by the best money can buy. See you in January.

  6. Anonymous - Mar 16, 2006 at 9:38 PM

    The Redskins “overpay” because since they have huge revenue, they are able to offer more signing bonus (i.e. guaranteed) money. A player is generally willing to accept a smaller overall contract if it includes more guaranteed money.

    This only becomes a problem if the player you sign is a bust and you want to get rid of him and then get the major cap hit all at once. For instance, the redskin’s couldn’t really afford to cut Brunnel after one season or even 2. After 3-4 years (he could very well make it as a backup in his 4th year) the cap hit would be down to under 4mil if they want to cut him. But in 2 years, the cap might have gone up 10-20 million as well.

    in general we say money today is worth more than money tomorrow, and that’s what the redskins are doing, except with the cap. They are spending the future year’s cap today. Except that since the cap is also rising, today’s cap dollars are worth more than future cap dollars.

  7. Anonymous - Mar 19, 2006 at 4:02 PM

    You’re about as unbiased as Al Franken.

    How about you’re about as unbiased as Bill O’Reilly? I think that works better. :-)

  8. Trevor - Mar 22, 2006 at 1:52 AM

    Ok, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I just came across this blog and I’m absolutely loving it. Often times, I struggle to find new redskins info during the offseason, and this awesome!

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