Maybe one day the Mike Shanahan will be able to have a normal offseason to try to improve the Washington Redskins. He hasn’t had one of those yet.
“It has been an interesting four years,” Shanahan said the members of the media at Redskins Park yesterday.
In 2010, his first season with the team, there was no salary cap in the NFL and with that came with some changes in the rules to free agency. The big issue was that a player had to have completed six years of NFL service to become an unrestricted free agent. That seriously diluted the quality of the available free agents and the Redskins were largely spectators.
The NFL lockout came the next year. The Redskins managed to execute a couple of transactions prior to things going into the deep freeze as they signed safety O.J. Atogwe and released running back Clinton Portis. Without a CBA in place, only the draft took place between March and late July. When labor peace finally arrived, a free agency period that usually stretches out over a few weeks was compressed into a few days. The emphasis was on the defense as Josh Wilson, Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen came on board.
A year ago it looked like it was back to business as usual at Redskins Park. That was until 24 hours before free agency started and the news of the $36 million salary cap penalty hit. Thanks to some good cap management by the Redskins they were able to absorb the initial $18 million hit and still bring in wide receivers Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan. But plans to further bolster the team prior the arrival of quarterback Robert Griffin III were shot down by the cap penalty.
So 2013 arrives and it appears that the Redskins are not going to be able to get out of getting hit with the other half of that cap penalty so for a fourth straight year Shanahan and company are going to have to adjust. And although Shanahan and Bruce Allen were clearly unhappy with the penalty they have accepted it and will proceed accordingly.
“[W]e’re dealt a certain hand,” said Shanahan. “Our players will adjust, we will adjust, and it’s full speed ahead.”
Well, maybe not quite full speed, at least when it comes to acquiring free agents.
“We’re not able to go out in free agency and we might be able to do it for one guy or two guys depending on what the money is,” he said. “That is just the hand we were dealt and are dealing with.”
A successful offseason for the Redskins would probably consist of retaining the services of tight end Fred Davis and linebacker/special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. If they can find someone capable of filling DeAngelo Hall’s cornerback job and a free safety who can keep an opposing receiver from going deep in the last two minutes of close game, all the better.
The Redskins might be able to do a little bit more by using some contract structures that push money into future years but Shanahan is wary of doing that.
“If you get too creative, it comes back to haunt you,” he said. “We try to do things the right way, not try to structure things out into the future where it comes back to bite you three, four years from now. You do that, you don’t do things the right way.”
Doing things the right way helped put the Redskins in position to be able to survive the cap penalty. Maybe they will have an opportunity to take advantage of sound management to build the team starting in 2014.