By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
Thanks to the NFL’s controversial $18 million salary cap penalty, the Redskins are about $4 million over the NFL salary cap and they will have some work to do to be able to sign their own free agents. If they want to go shopping for free agents from other teams, especially of the high-priced variety, they will have to do even more work and push a significant amount of cap money into future seasons.
Should they go for it and improve their chances of holding a Super Bowl parade sooner rather than later? Or should they play it conservatively and squeeze through this season and not have cap problems down the road? Redskins insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler debate the question in this weeks edition of Point-Counterpoint.
Rich Tandler: Yes, it would be very tempting to mortgage the farm and bring in a few top-notch defensive backs, a stud right tackle, and some other upgrades. But the Redskins would be very, very foolish to go on a Cerrato-like restructuring spree to add talent this year. The cap is going to remain flat through 2014 so if they move a lot of money this year they will have to do the same next year. That’s how you end up with a lot of aging players that you can’t release because their cap hits are too big because of all of the restructured money. It’s not like the Redskins’ window is about to close; RG3 will be around for another decade or so.
Tarik El-Bashir: I can think of another Washington team that thought its “window” would remain wide open for several years. As it turned out, though, the Capitals’ window of opportunity closed almost as quickly as it opened. That's pro sports. And the up-and-coming Redskins would do well to learn from their neighbor. With RG3, Alfred Morris, Ryan Kerrigan and Pierre Garçon, among others, they've got an impressive core, they’ve got some chemistry and they’ve everyone’s attention. Clear some cap space (within reason), then go out and get a stud right tackle, a playmaking tight end and bone-crushing safety. And if there’s anything left over, perhaps add a returner, too. The time to go big is now.
Tandler: Funny, I didn’t see the Ravens going out and inking a bunch of free agents a year ago because Joe Flacco was in his prime or because Ray Lewis was getting near the end of the line. They give their draft picks an opportunity to shine and augment them with the occasional free agent like Bernard Pollard and trade for an Anquan Boldin. The Redskins have drafted 21 players the last two years and they have seven more picks in April’s draft. Rather than shopping for other teams’ players pushing cap money into future years they should give some of those players a shot at filling the holes on the team.
El-Bashir: Who said a “bunch of free agents?” I’m talking about targeting three veterans at positions of need. And, if necessary, creating some cap space to make that happen. Or…you can always take your chances. Maybe the answer at right tackle is on the roster. Maybe Brandon Meriweather will stay healthy in 2013. Maybe Richard Crawford will blossom into a playmaking cornerback/returner in his second season. Maybe they’ll uncover another gem (a la Alfred Morris) in the draft. That’s a few too many maybes for me, especially given how close to contending RG3 and Co. appear to be.