Today, it was revealed that the NFL would be punishing the Redskins and Cowboys for frontloading mega-contracts during 2010, when there was no salary cap, by taking away their cap space in 2012 and 2013 (the Redskins lose $36 million and the Cowboys $10 million, cap hits which they can spread as they see fit over this season and the next). This was apparently triggered by large contracts given to Albert Haynesworth and Miles Austin in the 2010 offseason; Washington and Dallas abused the freedom of the uncapped season by not reasonably distributing out contracts over the duration of multiple years, and instead frontloading Austin’s and Haynesworth’s deals (on an unrelated note, the ‘Skins and ‘Boys had the two highest payrolls that year).
While this was never an official rule or law, the league apparently warned teams numerous times that such action was unethical and would disrupt “competitive balance,” and threatened punishment to any team who ignored those admonitions. The money lost by Washington and Dallas will be distributed equally to all the other clubs except New Orleans and Oakland (the former presumably because of the bounty scandal, and the latter for unspecified reasons), about $1.6 million in extra cap space.
Clearly, these league-ordained punishments benefit the Philadelphia Eagles, both in the short-term and the long-term. Obviously, the lack of cap space hurts both Dallas and Washington, and makes them less threatening this season. In particular, the Cowboys, who already had cap issues, won’t be able to sign a quality cornerback in free agency, and probably will no longer be able to retain Laurent Robinson. Considering how Dallas struggled last year, their inability to appreciably improve during the offseason will definitely hurt their hopes of becoming playoff contenders next year. They have now become entrenched as a receding third competitor in a two-team dogfight for the NFC East between the Eagles and Giants.
The cap hits on Washington will also benefit the Eagles, particularly in the long-term. It hurts the team’s ability to put quality talent around presumed starter Robert Griffin III, and probably will hinder him in his development. Prior to the recent penalties, Washington had $40 million in cap space and seemed primed to be a major player in free agency, linked to marquee names like Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, and Cortland Finnegan. They may still be able to acquire one of these players, but not all three, and more, as they might have hoped for. It’s also important to remember that they’ve already given up their first-rounders in 2013 and 2014, meaning free agency was more important in building their roster.
And finally, Griffin was already attracting the same sort of buzz from players around the league as Michael Vick did last summer, contributing to players’ willingness to take a pay cut to play in Philadelphia. The Redskins had a golden opportunity to capitalize on the bountiful 2012 free agent class, but now any gains they make will be significantly less due to their loss in cap space. This will hurt Griffin’s development and set back their rebuilding process. In the short-term and the long-term, the Cowboys’ and Redskins’ cap blunders will help the Eagles (and the Giants) succeed in a weakened NFC East.
The lesson, as usual: don’t spend like Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones.