The NFL has taken the hammer to two Eagles rivals, docking the Cowboys and Redskins millions of dollars of salary cap space on the eve of free agency, according to an ESPN report.
The Cowboys will lose $10 million in cap room and the Redskins will lose a whopping $36 million, according to Adam Schefter, for the way they front-loaded contracts in the uncapped 2010 season. They can split the losses over 2012 and 2013. For perspective, the 2012 salary cap is $120.6 million -- so the 'Skins are losing 30 percent of one year's spending power. (One contract said to have been overloaded in 2010 is the big deal the Redskins gave Albert Haynesworth, continuing his streak of being a fantastic investment everywhere he goes).
Put that together with the fact that they just took out a second mortgage to land the second pick in the draft and you really have to wonder how they'll add pieces to complement Robert Griffin, III (who we all assume will be their only first round draft pick for several years to come).
Washington was thought be a player for wide receiver Vincent Jackson, but with heavy competition for his services -- with Tampa Bay and Chicago said to be in the running, according to the Chicago Sun-Times -- he may now prove too costly. The Redskins cut fullback Mike Sellers and safety O.J. Atogwe soon after the penalties came down.
The Redskins were reportedly around $31 million under the salary cap as of Sunday, though the cap figures for many teams will change in the next 24 hours as they restructure contracts and place tenders on their restricted free agents. Dallas was $4.7 million under the cap.
The bottom line: a few days after the Redskins put themselves in position to pick RGIII and get stronger, two Eagles rivals are taking a big hit. While that's good news for Eagles fans, the question has been raised: what rule, exactly, did they break? It was an uncapped year, after all, and we have yet to hear how taking advantage of a situation that all owners knew about is a violation (owners voted as a group to end the old CBA early and initiate an uncapped season).
From here, and the vantage point of several other NFL beat reporters, it seems Dallas and Washington tried to make the most of rules that everyone was free to play by, at least according to the rules that were actually on paper. ProFootballTalk reported that the teams received "at least six warnings" about their contracts, but the question remains -- warnings based on what? If it's nothing more than a back room agreement not to spend, even though the cap was off, that sounds somewhat capricious.
But, the NFL and NFLPA reportedly agreed to the penalties together, so it seems like the Cowboys and 'Skins have little recourse and will have to accept their punishments. I doubt many in Philly feel much sympathy.
The money the Redskins and Cowboys lose will go to 28 other teams (excluding the Raiders and Saints, who are said to have committed lesser cap violations in 2010), allowing most of the rest of the league to spend $1.6 million more per team.