Our theme going into the 2011 season was that you would like this Washington Redskins team even if they finished with the same record as in 2010. The Redskins finished a five-win season—thank Goodness we swept the Giants or it would have been a three-win season—and now they enter the best part of the year, the offseason.
In the past, Daniel Snyder fell for large-scale, questionable offseason deals that did little more than feed the humor of the league. Now, when fans call the Redskins "champions of the offseason," They mean the very astute moves of the Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen front office.
More evidence of that appeared in John Clayton's Mailbag on ESPN.com yesterday, to wit:
"Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins has plenty of room to get quarterback and receiver help, thanks to $47.56 million of cap space." (Emphasis mine.)
The news gets better. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to roll over unused cap money into the next year. A lot of smart people think the 2012 salary cap will be a little over $120 million. Thus, the rollover potentially gives the Redskins a cap figure of around $130 million**. So, Washington could both sign Peyton Manning and draft Robert Griffin III and not blow the cap. Do that and they will build a monument to Shanahan on The Mall.
Disclaimer, I'm not sure of the mechanics of this here rollover. Fortunately, my friends at TheHogs.net (Twitter: @TheHogsdotNet) came to my rescue. See the tweets at the end of this post.
The quarterback and Albert Haynesworth blunders of Mike Shanahan's first year mask the good job that Shanallenhan has done to fix the contract structure. They fixed the roster by using free agency to address team needs so that they could use the NFL Draft to select best available talent.
We saw some of that in the 2011 offseason, but why didn't we notice it in 2010? Well, those McNabb-Haynesworth moves drew all of the attention while the rules of the "no cap year" in 2010 made rare the truly talented free agents of the right age.
The Redskins "should be one of the league's most active teams in free agency," writes ESPN.com blogger Dan Graziano, "though I wouldn't expect a reversion to the old, splashy days in which they just grabbed the biggest names out there. Mike Shanahan has an idea about the kinds of players he wants and a list of specific names he plans to pursue. The Redskins' free-agent period will be well funded, but it will also be focused and directed, which Redskins fans should appreciate. Something like last year's free agency for them, except with a focus primarily on offense instead of defense."
I like this. I really do like it.
The football management lesson is that managing the cap so that you have more flexibility than division rivals is a competitive advantage. More skill acquiring the right talent for your team is a strategic competitive advantage.
Cleverness in manipulating the cap and writing contracts based on name recognition have never been advantages. It's been clear for some time that Dan Snyder never got that. Now, the Redskins are doing it right in a way that will show on the field, perhaps as soon as 2012.
** @TheHogsdotNet tweeted me to clarify the rollover of surplus salary into the next year's salary cap. Here's the message, sent as a series of tweets, but shown here as a statement.
"The Redskins do not have a cap number of $170 million. Clayton said $47.5 million because the 'Skins only have about $88 million allocated right now and they'll have $120 million plus 2011 surplus. The surplus is about $10.5-$13 million by my numbers, so $120 + $13 = $133 salary cap - $88 = $47 million."
The Redskins blogging community is the best in the nation, especially for sharing insight about the team. Thank you, TheHogs, for the clarification.
Cap room, whatever the figure is significant, but not sufficient. Shanallenhan has a two year track record of making astute roster choices. They haven't been immune to signing faded names of Snyderesque proportion, but for every McNabb, they have added a Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Ryan Kerrigan. Expect that to continue.