Just when you thought the Redskins, thanks to the trade for the No. 2 overall draft pick, were going to be true winners in March – I rolled my eyes at the JetsSkins of ’03, hated replacing Ryan Clark with Adam Archuleta in ’06 and opposed the Haynesworth signing in ’08, came word that Washington’s salary cap room had shrunk like its winning percentage from the past two decades compared to the previous two.
Apparently, the Redskins and their usual partners in profligacy and thumbing their noses at league policy, the Cowboys, violated the gentlemen’s agreement during the 2010 uncapped year and spent too large. Unlike Wimpy of “Popeye” fame who asked to eat today and pay later, Washington and Dallas adjusted contracts to be paid out in 2010 with the idea of leaving them way under the cap in the first offseason after a new CBA was negotiated.
In short, Dan Snyder and Co. opted to pay the rest of Haynesworth’s $21 million bonus and added $15 million of DeAngelo Hall’s deal to save bucks for 2012. While the league office warned Snyder and his Cowboys counterpart Jerry Jones, neither the NFL nor the Players Association truly objected. However, both did now, at the behest of the other 30 clubs who cried foul at the Redskins and Cowboys using the rules as they existed during the uncapped year to help them in the future.
It’s unclear how much of the $36 million cap hit Washington will absorb this year and how much in 2013, but either way, it will certainly making re-signing (London Fletcher and Adam Carriker) or adding free agents (Vincent Jackson and Mario Manningham) much tougher than expected. And don’t forget that the Redskins won’t have a second-rounder next month or a first-rounder in 2013 to help bolster their talent arsenal.
Which brings me to the harshest reality of the situation.
The other franchises that have been smacked (or are about to be) by the NFL over the last five years are New England and New Orleans.
The Patriots, as you surely recall, were the focus of “Spygate” during the 2007 season. The Saints are expected to be penalized as soon as this week for the bounties that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams allegedly offered his players to injure opponents the past three seasons.
New England came within 36 seconds of a perfect season in 2007 and went 11-5 without star quarterback Tom Brady the following year after being fined $750,000 and being forced to relinquish its first-round selection.
New Orleans won Super Bowl XLIV during the first year of the alleged bounties, made the playoffs again in 2010 and won the NFC South in 2011.
In contrast, Washington went 6-10 in 2010 and 5-11 in 2011 after its apparent violations of league policy while Dallas went 6-10 in 2010 and 8-8 in 2011.
That’s how far the Redskins (13 playoff berths, five NFC titles and three Super Bowl championships from 1971-92) and the Cowboys (24 playoff berths, eight NFC titles, five Super Bowl championships from 1966-96) have fallen.
Washington made the playoffs just three times in the past 19 years, winning only two postseason games. Dallas made the playoffs six times during the past 15 years but with just a lone victory to show for it.
If you’re going to take the risk of gaming the NFL’s system, you had better at least win. The Redskins and Cowboys got caught with their fingers in the proverbial cookie jar and didn’t even get the sweets. And with free agency starting tomorrow, Washington’s RGIII-generated era of good feelings lasted less than 72 hours.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.