Here is how they do it!!!
Having been by far the most active team in free agency, the Washington Redskins might be close to tapped out, at least in terms of adding any more high-profile players.
Owner Dan Snyder has committed roughly $38 million in signing bonuses and 2003 base salaries for new players so far, but that total will be reduced if he doesn't land all three veterans signed to restricted free agent offer sheets.
The Green Bay Packers have until Tuesday to decide whether to match the four-year, $6 million offer sheet to free safety Matt Bowen. The New York Jets must decide by Thursday whether return specialist Chad Morton merits the five-year, nearly $8 million offer he signed in Washington. And the Jets will have a week to resolve the Laveranues Coles offer sheet.
Even if the $38 million aggregate investment made by the Redskins is cut by the resolution of those offer sheets, Snyder probably can't make too many more big splashes. The reason: He has very few ways to create more room under the salary cap.
Washington recently saved $4.234 million by restructuring the 2003 portions of the contracts for offensive tackle Chris Samuels and middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. But there are only about two players left on the roster with huge cap numbers who, by restructuring their current contracts, could help the club carve out more space.
The first of those is linebacker LaVar Arrington, with a monstrous salary cap charge of $9.771 million for 2003. The Redskins almost certainly will have to approach Arrington about doing a "simple" restructuring after the draft, but that means dealing with agents Carl Poston and Kevin Poston, who are known to be difficult negotiators. Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson has a cap number of $5.17 million and already has been approached about re-doing his contract to provide much-needed cap relief.
Another possibility is extending the contract of Champ Bailey but, being in his final season and possibly headed for unrestricted free agency next spring, the standout cornerback almost certainly isn't interested in re-upping.
Looking down the road, Snyder will probably have to restructure deals next year as well, but is not quite a prisoner of cap jail yet. But what is clear, and the owner has conceded this, is that there won't be many acquisitions in free agency next spring. "The team we have now," said Snyder, "is pretty much the team we're committed to having in 2004."
On the Coles front, while Jets officials on Monday began the debate over whether to match the offer sheet, they also commenced seeking options to the three-year veteran. The Jets spoke with the agent for unrestricted free agent wide receiver Kevin Dyson, formerly of Tennessee, and they could arrange a visit for later this week.