One of the prevailing themes of the Redskins struggles this past year was to blame it on the Cap Penalty. This was often repeated by Mike Shanahan, the assistant coaches and others associated with the team. It quickly became the go to excuse for the fans and even members of the media. While losing the cap money didn’t help, it was hardly the central reason for the Redskins woes. The Redskins offseason moves this year will show that the “Cap Penalty” wasn’t what really held this team back.
Currently the Redskins have $7.47 million in dead cap space before making any cuts and if they make the 10 cuts that they could make this offseason (which they should), the Redskins will have just over $23 million in dead money this year. That $23 million is more than their dead cap hits from either of the last two years. Despite that their outlook this year looks much better than last year because they will have $42 million to spend to fix this team. The real difference between last year and this year is the fact that either due to expiration, voided deals or these potential cuts, the Redskins will be dumping all the bad contracts that Mike Shanahan brought in (some blame is probably deserved on the rest of the front office for making these deals as well).
These deals over the years for O.J. Atogwe, Jammal Brown, Chris Chester, Stephen Bowen, etc. have been the biggest detriment to this team, particularly last year. Contracts for guys like Josh Morgan, Brandon Meriweather, London Fletcher, Adam Carriker, Will Montgomery, Kory Lichtensteiger and Sav Rocca (all of which signed after the cap penalty), were the real reason why the Redskins didn’t have money to spend on upgrades. Instead they gave that money to players who simply weren’t worth it and it created a major talent deficiency on the Redskins. One that combined with their other issues landed them a 3-13 record.
Also the $23 million in dead money is made up of letting go or voiding the final bad contracts handed out under Shanahan, so even with him gone he left a major hole for Jay Gruden to have to overcome. If the Redskins are smart though they should easily be able to overcome this parting “gift” from Mike Shanahan and build a team that doesn’t over extend itself and has the cap flexibility to bring in additional talent while retaining their own players. Other teams around the league have dealt with $20 million or more in dead money in recent years (Colts in 2012, Jets and Raiders last year among others) and were better off for it. Given that the Redskins still have $42 million in cap room they will have an easier time dealing with it than some of these other teams.
The real “Cap Penalty” that has been imposed on the Redskins in recent years has been the mis-management during the Mike Shanahan regime. Now that those days are over, hopefully this is the last year the Redskins will have to deal with these issues. With Shanahan gone the excuses should end and the real blame should be placed on the man who deserves it. The Redskins can’t fix the past, but they can learn from Shanahan’s mistakes (hopefully) and take pages out of the books from the most successful NFL teams who do a far better job of contract and cap management.