It was February 27th, 2009. The Washington Redskins had just signed unrestricted free-agent and former Tennessee Titan, Albert George Haynesworth III to a seven-year deal worth $100 million and $41 million guaranteed with $31 million of that available within the first year. From the moment the ink dried on his contract, the Redskins were in for a ride.
Washington knew headed into the situation that Haynesworth had a few issues. In October of 2006, he made a literal doormat out of former Dallas Cowboys center, Andre Gurode. If you recall, Haynesworth removed Gurode’s helmet and opened a nice hole in his forehead (for which he served a multiple-game suspension and was fined). Albert also had a series of legal issues while in Tennessee that included warrants for arrest, failure to pay loans and even an accident that left a man partially paralyzed. You would think that Danny, or at the very least, somebody in the front office, could have seen this coming.
The Redskins not only signed this man to a contract, they front-loaded it as to fit the majority of the guaranteed money into a potentially (and eventually) uncapped year. Albert Haynesworth wasn’t the only player to have his structure his contract this way; the Redskins did something similar with DeAngelo Hall. Back to the point.
Prince Albert fails a basic physical for camp, naps on the field and assaults a waitress, all the while earning $35.6 million of Dan Snyder’s money and ending up suspended by the team. The Redskins, surprisingly, get a fifth-round pick in 2013 from New England for him. Haynesworth is now out of the league.
The National Football League decides that the Redskins (and Cowboys) used the uncapped year to frontload contracts and thus should be penalized $36 million against their cap, to be divided over two years however they wish. The question that everybody wants the answer to, including Skins GM Bruce Allen, is “why?” We know why, but how can the NFL enforce a rule that didn’t exist?
These are the words of one journalist from NationalFootballPost.com in 2011:
Not known for their savvy cash and Cap management, the Redskins did do a clever thing with Haynesworth’s contract last year to prepare for this day.
They inserted a player voidable clause, allowing Haynesworth to end his contract early. Due to Cap rules, the signing bonus following the voidable clause will not prorate through the remainder of the contract.
Haynesworth’s $21 million bonus last April that was restructured in the manner described above to have the entire amount count in 2010 with no accounting in future years. Thus, for Cap accounting, there is no remaining Cap hit on that money in future years and it allows the Redskins to trade Haynesworth without Cap consequences.
Kudos to them for preparing for this inevitability well.
The Redskins got creative with a contract for a player that ended up being, what many consider to be, the single worst free-agent signing of all-time. The signing of Albert Haynesworth caused a chain reaction that created an alternate 2011 and 2012 in Washington, DC. This wasn’t Hill Valley though, this was a move that forced the Redskins to build on the players they currently have and begin to draft smarter. A terrible season, helped along by the lack of play by Haynesworth, which set the stage for another awful season with Rex Grossman at the helm, allowed for the Redskins to get within striking distance of the 2nd overall pick in 2012 and eventually land Robert Griffin III. The cap issues didn’t restrict the team in 2011 as much as they have now (see Pierre Garcon), but it appears that the team is again focusing on signing their own talent as opposed to bringing in another O.J. Atogwe. The effects of 92’s brief career in Washington will likely be felt until at least the end of the 2013 league year and probably forever in most fan’s minds. The Washington faithful can also thank the Minnesota Vikings for trading a sixth-round pick to the Redskins for another failed project, Donovan McNabb. That pick would later become Alfred Morris.
The Redskins acquisition of Haynesworth has created both positive and negative events, or positive change through the negative. Many people regard his signing as a poor decision, this is understandable. I, for one, believe it to be the kind of kick in the groin that gets a team motivated to change (after several bags of ice). Since Haynesworth’s departure, the team has acquired Pro Bowl talent through the draft and even had some luck in free agency with what limited money they have. Imagine this team with some wiggle room? The NFC East belonged to the Redskins in 2012, and with a completely healthy RGIII and some cap space on the horizon, it’ll be interesting to see what else they can achieve in 2013 and beyond.
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