Another season-saving win. Avoiding 0-4 with a win in Oakland was big; avoiding 1-5 with the big win over Chicago was absolutely necessary; today's 30-24 OT win over the Chargers gives them a chance to get back into things over the next few weeks. The good, bad, and more.
1. Goal-line stand. Let's start there because without it, they would've lost the game 28-24. It was a tough situation because the Chargers had 1st and goal at the 6-inch line with 2 timeouts left meaning that they had the option of throwing or running. They chose to throw it twice which seems surprising until you realize that they barely ran it all day long.
2. Offensive game plan and play calling. A great game called by Kyle Shanahan who didn't seem to let any of the criticism about the lack of Morris runs last week deter him from calling the right game for the team rather than for his critics. Six of the first 8 plays of the game were passes when the whole town has been screaming to run Morris on every play. The Shanahans believe in taking what the defense gives you and the Chargers came out with the intent of stopping the run and Kyle called a game that early on used the pass and a couple of triple-option plays to set up easier running lanes for Morris.
Their first 4 first downs of the game included 2 passes and a triple option pitch to Jordan Reed. The Chargers were kept off-balance all day long thanks to excellent play calling and some seldom-used twists like Darrell Young carrying the ball, more triple option, and a few empty backfield sets.
Two specific play calls show that despite recent mishaps in similar situations, Kyle stuck to his aggressive guns. When they got the ball back up 21-14, he went read-option throw to a wide-open Moss over the middle. The ball was poorly thrown and fell incomplete but this was similar to last week when everyone thought he should run Morris over and over. The play was open and should've worked. The other play was the first play after San Diego had cut the lead to 24-21. I'm sure everyone including San Diego was thinking here comes Morris yet he goes play-action and a perfect throw to Garcon for 26.
3. Read-Option. The Redskins ran a ton of it today and Morris, Young, and the passing game totally benefited from it. Robert didn't keep it much except on the triple-option plays but the threat that he would keep it set up the other stuff. The new twists to the read-option game will keep teams guessing in the coming weeks. The blocking scheme looked different and Moss, Morgan, Reed, and Hankerson have all been pitch options on triple-option plays this year. Young as a full-back run-threat in the backfield as part of the "Pistol" formation with Griffin and Morris is a new twist as well. The Skins ran 21 read-option style plays for 180 yards. Morris was 8-55 yds on read-option style runs while RG3 went 7-8 for 84 yards on read-option/play action passes.
4. Offensive execution, especially on 3rd-down. Last week in Denver at 21-21 in the 4th quarter, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson had opportunities to make catches that could've changed the game but they dropped the ball. Today, Garcon made at least 3 brilliant catches while Griffin made very good throws at key moments, especially on 3rd-down. The Redskins went 12 for 17 on 3rd downs for the game. RG3 was 8 for 9 on 3rd-down throws, 7 of them for first downs. He also ran 10 yards for a 1st down on 3rd and 9.
5. Pierre Garcon. Money game for the guy who said last week "we suck at passing". 7 catches for 172 yards and at least 3 of them were incredible grabs. The deep ball on 3rd and 12 early in the 3rd quarter that he caught was amazing. There was P.I. on the play but he didn't need it with an incredible catch.
6. Alfred Morris. He was great today and really benefitted from the read-option success.
7. RG3. For starters, he made great decisions most of the day on read-option plays. I remember just one read that should've stayed with Morris and it would've been a big run but other than that play, he was very good in the read-option game. He missed a few throws but made a ton of good ones including clutch throws on 3rd down. Among the missed throws....1) overthrowing a wide-open Santana Moss early in the 4th quarter and 2) a throw behind Pierre Garcon on 2nd and 19 late in the 4th quarter on a drive that could've ended the game. Garcon made the catch for a 16-yard gain but a good throw would've been a first down.
With that said, Robert made big throws and perhaps the biggest run of the game. He went 8 for 9 on 3rd down, 7 of those for first downs. His 10-yard run on 3rd and 9 with the score tied at 14 was a monster play....he paid for it with a big hit. Some would prefer he run it out of bounds short of the sticks and punt....he's just not wired that way. It was a big drive, a big play, he knew it, he went and made a play even though he took a big hit.
8. Darrell Young. 3 touchdowns and a new option out of the read-option that other teams must now prepare for.
9. Jordan Reed. Big catch and move-the-sticks run in OT on 3rd and 8.
1. Special Teams. 2 blocked field goals in one game are really hard to do but they managed to do it. Josh Morgan on punt and kick returns is a total disaster and if he's back there next week I'd question who he has pictures of. He makes horrible decisions as a punt returner when he doesn't catch punts he should catch. He let two hit the ground and one of them nearly bounced back and hit one of his teammates. Also, on the kickoff at the end of regulation after San Diego tied it, I don't think he knew that he had to go back and down the ball in the end zone. It was laying there and could've been recovered by San Diego until someone yelled at him to go down it.
2. Pass rush. I heard a lot of complaints after the game about Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan getting held all day long but that sounds like excuse-making to me. Both looked like they were handled most of the day. You can tell they play with high energy but they don't get consistent results. Obviously Kerrigan is a major play maker for this team but he needs more consistent pressure. Orakpo just isn't consistent enough. In fact, Rob Jackson still looks like a better play-maker than Orakpo. Jackson had the team's only sack. Bottom line, 1 sack and 4 QB hits aren't enough. They got close a few times but this team doesn't get enough pass rush....period.
1. The Biggers INT was huge. He benefited from a clear mix-up between Rivers and Brown but that play kept the Skins from falling behind by two scores early.
2. Refs were bad all day long...until the end, thankfully. There was on offensive P.I. called on San Diego's Keenan Allen in the first half without any contact. Chris Chester got called for holding on a play early in the 3rd quarter that wasn't close to being correct. The defenseless hit on Garcon in overtime was a bad call. I thought Woodhead fumbled on the play in the 4th quarter that Shanahan challenged. In overtime, Morris had a run that appeared to spotted poorly. It looked like he got 10, they gave him 9. At least they got the Woodhead play at the goal line at the end right.
3. Chargers' DE Lawrence Guy created a 10-point swing by himself. He blocked a short field goal and tipped an RG3 pass that was picked off in the end zone for the first score of the game.
4. Too many close calls on delay of game for Skins' offense. Cooley talks about tempo all the time and it looked like their tempo was too slow at times. They had one delary of game penalty on a big 3rd and 1 late in the 3rd qtr.
5. Niles Paul's 24-yard kickoff return looked better than anything Morgan has had all season long.
6. The 2 early San Diego Scifres punts to the Skins' 1...an example of great special teams play and it led to a 7-nothing Chargers' lead.
7. No "Turbo" offense today.
8. David Amerson can make plays, good and bad. He had a great pick and he got beat on occasion. Typical for a rookie corner with talent.
9. Hankerson stepped up and had a nice game. No drops, that's encouraging.
10. Skins ran 38 snaps from Pistol for 233 yards, 180 of those yards coming on read-option style plays. 2 of those snaps were no plays because of penalties.
A nice win with a quarterback not completely healthy and against an Eagle team that came to play. The good, bad, and more. Also, their updated playoff situation is listed below.
1. The Defense. Jim Haslett schemed up more pressure on the quarterback than in any game this year. The players also won more matchups than they have in any game this year. Five total sacks with several more hurries. Pressure was a factor all day but most importantly on three key plays. First--the Ryan Kerrigan sack/forced fumble on the final play of the 1st quarter. They were down 7-zip and on the verge of going down more. Second-the 4th and 2 sack at midfield up 20-13 in the 3rd quarter. Again, it was a Kerrigan play pushing the tackle back into Foles for the sack. Third-the final play of the game. Pressure forced the intentional grounding and the 10-second run-off...game over. The two turnovers forced in the first half were huge. I say forced because Kerrigan forced one with the sack and Cofield tipped the ball that Fletcher picked off. By the way, Cofield was very good all day as was Fletcher and Riley.
2. Offensive Playmakers. The Redskins have guys making plays after catches, during catches, and after getting hit. It's as important as anything we've seen during the 6-game win streak. Pierre Garcon makes plays. Joshua Morgan makes plays and was especially effective today. He had an incredible run on a reverse that should've been a loss. His touchdown catch and run was typical of the kinds of plays their receivers are making. Moss's touchdown catch was spectacular. Morris makes plays especially after contact. Royster had a good move on 3rd and short. Niles Paul had a nice catch and run. Attribute it to the scheme, the return of Garcon, or anything you want but the Skins have guys making plays with the ball.
3. Kai Forbath. He's money. 17 for 17 and the new record for most kicks made without a miss to start a career. His two early field goals today were important and gave the Skins some momentum.
4. Kyle Shanahan. He had a quarterback that was clearly less than 100% yet he was able to come up with a gameplan that kept the threat of RG3 as a runner in place without actually running him much. All season long I've felt the talk of him as a runner has been so overrated compared to the biggest benefit which has been the "threat of RG3 running" even when he didn't. There was plenty of pistol and even several read-option plays but he only ran on one read-option. The others were Morris runs or the read-option was used to set up passes. Kyle threw in several wrinkles....two plays stood out. On a completion to Garcon in the first half off the read-option look, Joshua Morgan was in motion than moved into the backfield prior to the snap. They've used that alot on plays where the WR ends up being a decoy on a run play or is used as the pitch back on the option but never on a quick throw off the read-option. The more interesting play was the touchdown run by Morris. That play appeared to be a fake read-option to one side with an old-school counter trey with Trent Williams pulling to the other side. The play broke wide-open for the touchdown.
1. RG3's mobility. It was obvious he wasn't 100% and we saw it early. He seemed uncomfortable on an early read-option run and later on a 4th and 2 bootleg miss.
2. A near-disaster in pass coverage at the end. Madieu Williams did a nice job on a safety blitz but was seemingly out of position (which isn't a first) and very lucky on a pass into the end zone for a wide open Maclin on the final drive.
1. Skins got lucky at the end when #86 dropped a wide-open slant for a touchdown.
2. I think Andy Reid may have gone for 2 and the win if they had scored at the end. He was in a risk-taking mode all day with nothing to lose.
3. The challenge by Shanahan on the RG3 lateral to Moss that lost 17 yards was a bit of a waste.
4. Eagle fans have complained about Reid's clock managment for years and it's easy to see why. He called quick timeouts with still over a minute left in the first half potentially leaving plenty of time for the Skins to score before the end of the half. It didn't hurt him this time but the strategy was wrong.
Skins' Playoff situation:
To Win the NFC East- Beat Dallas. They could also win the NFC East with a tie against Dallas if the Giants lose once. The Skins CAN'T win the NFC East with a loss to Dallas. A 9-7 final record would lose out to either a 10-6 Giants or a 9-7 Cowboys (common opponents).
Wildcard- If they lose to Dallas, they could still qualify for the playoffs as a wildcard but would need 3 of the following 4 things to happen. 1-the Giants to lose once (vs Balt or Philly); 2-the Vikings to lose to the Packers; 3-the Bears to lose once (vs Cards or Lions); 4-Seattle to lose twice (vs SF and STL).
1. Kai Forbath. He's 8 for 8 with 6 of the 8 from 43 or longer although his onsides kick attempt sucked.
2. Alfred Morris. Excellent runner.
3. No turnovers. Amazing that the Redskins haven't committed a turnover in 2 weeks. Even more impressive on day like today when they dominated time of possession running 76 plays with a ton of passes in obvious passing situations in the 4th quarter.
1. Defense. It's awful. It is totally incapable of making plays to get off the field and totally reliant on the other team to self-destruct. Carolina was only stopped by its own dropped passes and penalties until the 4th quarter when their urgency to work clock instead of score became a factor. The Panthers rolled up 330 yards on just 50 plays. Can't decide which is worse, pass rush or coverage. Today, it was coverage and throw in the inability to stop the run as well. Can't decide who is worse, D-Hall or Wilson. I'd say Wilson today.
2. The 4th and goal play-call. I mentioned after the Saints game that the QB sweep with no pass or pitch option is just a bad play. It's a play more than the other run-oriented looks that really could get RG3 hurt.
3. Penalties. In a game that the head coach called "must-win", 13 penalties for 97 yards is unacceptable and on him. A team that is disciplined and playing a so-called "must-win" game can't commit false start and illegal formation penalties.
4. Urgency. Where was the desperation in a "must-win" game? It wasn't obvious to see, especially on defense, but the penalties and dropped passes on offense didn't look very desperate either.
5. Pass protection. Too much drop-back passing for this offensive line. RG3 took big shots in the pocket. Surprised he wasn't hurt on an early shot he took.
6. No playmaking pass receivers without Davis and Garcon. The lack of playmakers has killed them the last two weeks. Morgan and Paulson made a few plays but there's nobody on the field that can stretch it. Aldrick Robinson short-armed the first throw of the game and was targeted two more times the rest of the way managing 1 catch for 6 yards.
7. Shanahan's clock mgt. Calling a timeout on offense on the drive that cut the lead to 21-13 cost them 30-35 seconds when they got the ball back. Instead of getting it back with 18 seconds left, they would've had close to a full minute to try and tie the game. Coaches that know how to manage the clock don't use their timeouts on offense in that situation when they have the ability to snap the ball quickly. They use them on defense to prevent the other team from running the clock out. Pretty much anybody that watches a few games a week understands this. Apparently the Shanahans don't.
8. Officiating. The inadvertent whistle was bad, the 15-yarder on Fletcher was awful, but the delay of game penalty called on the Panthers when the ref was standing under center preventing Carolina from snapping the ball was worst of all. The replacement refs weren't any worse than the crew working the game today.
1. RG3's accuracy was off today even though he had some balls dropped. I also thought that he hung on to the ball in the pocket too long on occasion instead of tucking it and making a play with his feet outside of the pocket.
2. Fletcher just isn't good enough in coverage. Teams are throwing to tight ends as quickly as they can when he drops in coverage.
3. The Redskins were effective moving the ball but not effective scoring points. They took 30 snaps on their only two drives of the first half, rolled up 146 yards, but scored just 3 points. They took 44 snaps on 3 of their first 4 real drives of the game, rolled up 227 yards, but managed just 6 points. I hated the 4th and goal call but I'm not sure playcalling was as much the issue for not completing drives as much as mistakes and execution were. The holding penalty on Trent Williams on their first drive of the game derailed that opportunity. The 4th and goal wasn't my favorite playcall but the execution of it wasn't very good either. On the 3rd quarter drive that ended in field goal, Josh Morgan was open on the slant inside the 5 for a first down but the ball was a bit behind him and he couldn't pull it in. Down 14-6 with a little momentum after the only good defensive play made all day on the 3rd and 1 stop on Tolbert, a drive that appeared to be on the move was hurt by the illegal man downfield penalty on Lichtensteiger and a 3rd down drop by Morgan which was the difference between a punt and a potential field goal attempt.
4. The Redskins only had the ball for 9 real drives in the game because they held it when they had it and Carolina held it when they had it. Also, for the 2nd straight week they played in a game that didn't have one turnover.
5. I hate the idea of labeling a pro game a "Homecoming" game. It would seem that the other team could use it as motivation.
WASHINGTON (AP) Joshua Morgan came home Wednesday. As a bonus, got to hang out with Pierre Garcon.
Morgan and Garcon signed their contracts with the Washington Redskins, adding fresh talent to the receiving corps even as the team continued to search for other ways to upgrade on the second day of NFL free agency.
"We've got a great idea of what the coaches expect from us and what they want us to do. We're just ready to come in there and go to work," Morgan said in an interview after meeting with coach Mike Shanahan, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and other coaches. "The sky's the limit for us. I agree with the coaches: They said that the offense matches me and Pierre's talents."
Washington took care of some other paperwork Wednesday, formally completing the trade with the St. Louis Rams to move up to the No. 2 spot in the NFL draft. Meanwhile, they continued to court receiver Eddie Royal and were preparing to host cornerback Aaron Ross on Thursday. Safety Brandon Meriweather was also scheduled for a visit, according to The Washington Post.
Morgan goes from West Coast to East, leaving the San Francisco 49ers for $12 million over two years with $7.5 million guaranteed. He said he's almost fully recovered after breaking his right leg Oct. 9 against Tampa Bay. He had surgery to have screws inserted and was placed on season-ending injured reserve just five games into the season.
"Just still trying to work on that explosion, get that explosion all the way back," he said. "But everything's good."
D.C. born and bred, Morgan also said the prospect of returning home - he played for Woodson High in Washington and then at Virginia Tech - had "a whole lot to do" with his choice of teams. He said his entire family still lives in the area, including the two grandmothers who prefer that he be called "Joshua" instead of "Josh" because it's true to the spirit of the Biblical names many of his relatives have.
"I'm happy for Josh. I wish we could have had him, but he's getting to play at home and getting paid some money," 49ers running back Frank Gore said. "Coming off the injury, I think he's going to all right. He's going to help the Redskins a lot."
Garcon, Morgan and possibly Royal would make for a crowded receiver competition with incumbents Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson if all are on the roster at training camp. The Redskins need more playmakers at the position: Moss averaged just 4.4 yards after the catch last year, while Gaffney averaged only 2.9.
But neither Garcon, Morgan nor Royal have had a 1,000-yard receiving season in the NFL. Garcon hit 947 last season as the Colts' No. 2 receiver next to Reggie Wayne, but he received No. 1 money from the Redskins. Morgan's high point has been 698 yards in 2010.
Garcon wasn't available for comment - the Redskins, usually known for making the most out of big free agent signings, uncharacteristically opted not to hold news conferences for either player - but Morgan feels he'll be able to adjust to Washington's offense without much difficulty.
"It just like the 49ers offense," Morgan said. "Same West Coast style, same terminology, same route combinations."
Meriweather and Ross are on the Redskins' list because the team has decisions to make all along the back line. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was cut this week after one disappointing season in Washington, and injured-plagued safety LaRon Landry became an unrestricted free agent. DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty, projected to be backups, were the starters by the end of last year. Cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are under contract to return, but they combined for just five interceptions in 2011.
Meriweather spent last season with the Chicago Bears but was benched in October after making four starts. He previously played four years with the New England Patriots and had 12 interceptions.
Ross played four years with the New York Giants but was deemed expendable with the return of Terrell Thomas from injury. Thomas re-signed with the Giants this month and figures to joins Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara in the cornerback rotation for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Washington agreed last week to give three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Rams, putting the Redskins into position to draft Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at No. 2. Under NFL rules, the trade couldn't be completed until the new league year began with the start of free agency.
Looking ahead, the Redskins need to decide on a veteran quarterback to help guide Griffin through a rookie season. One of the options was taken off the table Wednesday when Kyle Orton agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys.
Also still on the open market is linebacker and defensive captain London Fletcher, whom the Redskins would like to re-sign. Defensive end Adam Carriker, who re-signed on Wednesday, added to the lobbying effort for Fletcher to return.
"Hey man, I'm standing at the front door of Redskin Park," Carriker asked Fletcher on Twitter, "WHERE YOU AT?!"
Fletcher didn't answer.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
ASHBURN, Va. – The Washington Redskins announced today that they have signed unrestricted free agent wide receivers Pierre Garçon and Joshua Morgan. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.
Garçon, 25, spent his previous four NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts after being selected in the sixth round (205th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Mount Union. He has played in 58 regular season games, with 43 starts, and amassed 188 receptions for 2,519 yards (13.4 avg.) with 16 receiving touchdowns. He has reached the playoffs in three seasons (2008-10) and registered 26 receptions for 363 yards (14.0 avg.) with three receiving touchdowns in four games.
Last season, Garçon (6-0, 210) started in all 16 games finishing first on the Colts in receiving touchdowns (six) and second on the team in receptions (70) and receiving yards (947). That followed a 2010 campaign where he played and started 14 games and finished second on the team with 784 receiving yards and tied for second in receptions (67) and receiving touchdowns (six).
In 2009, Garçon’s 251 receiving yards and 21 receptions led the NFL during the postseason. He also amassed 47 receptions for 765 yards (16.3 avg.) with four receiving touchdowns during the regular season. He played in 14 games as a rookie, leading the team in kickoff returns (22) and kickoff return yards (475) and registered four receptions for 23 yards.
Garçon played collegiately at Norwich (Vt.) before transferring to Mount Union (Ohio), where he led his team to two NCAA Division III National Championships (2005, 2006). He appeared in 51 games during his four-year collegiate career amassing 246 receptions for 4,380 yards, 60 receiving touchdowns and 19 rushes for 176 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Garçon’s 60 touchdown receptions rank second in NCAA Division III history.
Garçon was born on Aug. 8, 1986, in Carmel, N.Y., and attended John I. Leonard H.S. in Green Acres, Fla.
Morgan, 26, spent his previous four NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers after being selected in the sixth round (174th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech. He has played in 49 games, with 32 starts, and amassed 131 receptions for 1,764 yards (13.5 avg.) with nine receiving touchdowns.
Last season, Morgan (6-0, 219) started in five games and amassed 15 receptions for 220 yards and one receiving touchdown. In 2010, he played in all 16 games with 10 starts and finished third on the team in receiving yards (698) and fourth in receptions (44) while adding two receiving touchdowns. In 2009, Morgan had a career-high 52 receptions and finished third on the 49ers in receiving yards (527). As a rookie, he played in 12 games with one start and totaled 20 receptions for 319 yards (16.0 avg.) and three receiving touchdowns, all covering 30 yards or more.
Morgan played collegiately at Virginia Tech, where he finished ranked second in school history with 122 receptions. He appeared in 51 games with 24 starts during his four-year collegiate career amassing 1,817 receiving yards with 16 receiving touchdowns.
Morgan was born on June 20, 1985, in Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard D. Woodson H.S., earning All-DCIAA honors as a senior.
WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Redskins moved aggressively in the first minutes of free agency Tuesday to find some targets for Robert Griffin III, agreeing to terms with Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan while pursuing Eddie Royal.
The Redskins also re-signed defensive end Adam Carriker and were working to add more on both sides of the ball, retaining their reputation as the one of the champions of the NFL offseason even as the cloud of a salary cap reduction from the league threatened to disrupt the team's plans.
Garcon's deal is a blockbuster: five years for $42.5 million with $20.5 million guaranteed, including an $11 million signing bonus.
Morgan agreed to a contract worth $12 million over the first two years, with $7.5 million guaranteed. His full contract is for five years, but the final three can be voided.
Carriker is set to return for $20 million over four years, with $7 million guaranteed.
"I wanted you all to hear it from me 1st before u saw it on the news... I will be signing with the Washington Redskins and I'm very excited about the opportunity in front of me," Garcon posted on his Facebook page less than an hour after the 4 p.m. start of the free agency period.
Garcon had 188 catches for 16 touchdowns and a 13.4-yard average in four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Last year he had 70 receptions for 947 yards and six TDs as Indianapolis finished 2-14.
Morgan had 131 catches for nine touchdowns and a 13.5-yard average in four years with the San Francisco 49ers. He broke a bone in his right leg in early October last year, ending his season with just 15 receptions for 220 yards and one TD.
Royal, who has played four seasons with the Denver Broncos, was talking to the Redskins and a half-dozen other teams.
All three would help overhaul a passing game that is expected to feature Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner whom the Redskins are set to take with the second overall pick in the NFL draft next month.
The Redskins were full steam ahead despite entering free agency with $36 million of uncertainty - the amount they are to be docked from their salary cap allotment by the NFL for the way the team structured contracts for the uncapped 2010 season.
Carriker, who had 5 1/2 sacks last season and will be returning for his third year with the Redskins, was concerned that the penalty would affect his chance of coming back.
"I was like, `That is terrible news.' Not just for the Redskins, but for me on the day before free agency," Carriker told ESPN 980. "And to be honest with you, I think the Redskins, they're in a position where, like, `We don't think we did anything wrong,' and so I don't think it affected us too much."
The Redskins need upgrades at receiver, in the secondary and along the offensive line to improve after four consecutive last-place seasons. They are poised to add Griffin after agreeing last week to a deal with the St. Louis Rams to move up to the No. 2 overall spot in the draft.
But some decisions made two years ago are getting in the way.
The Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys took advantage of the 2010 uncapped year with a simple, almost obvious plan: They front-loaded contracts so that they would be in good position to spend when the cap was back in place, and those contracts were approved by the league office at the time.
But the NFL's Management Council Executive Committee has decided that those seemingly savvy moves have "created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance," according to a league announcement on Monday that was noticeably short on details. The Redskins will have to forfeit at least half of their $36 million penalty this year, leaving Washington less than $20 million under the cap entering this year's free agency. The Cowboys will forfeit $10 million over two years.
"They front-loaded contracts," former Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said on ESPN, where he now works as an analyst. "They put money that would normally be spaced out over the length of the contract into the uncapped year. It was a little bit of gamesmanship. Not a little bit - a lot of gamesmanship.
"If you have cash, you can do that. Teams that don't have cash could not do that. The clubs were warned on numerous occasions, `Don't do this,' because it won't fit with the letter, or the spirit, of a new collective bargaining agreement. Once a new agreement was reached ... these sanctions have been applied. There was plenty of notice, and there was agreement on the part of the (players') union on the league's position."
In a rare show of camaraderie among NFC East rivals, the Redskins and Cowboys released similar statements Monday night, protesting their innocence with a hint of defiance. Both teams said they followed the rules and were looking forward to getting started in free agency. Some sort of formal challenge appeared likely.
"If you know a good antitrust lawyer, I would call one," Polian said. "That looks where that's going. The lawyers are going to get wealthy here."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteA