It is the most-asked question among reporters, columnists...even fans on message boards:
How do the Redskins manage to acquire so many free agents--six so far this offseason--and still stay under the NFL's $102 million salary cap?
During the last few weeks, head coach Joe Gibbs has provided some insight into how the Redskins front office navigates the salary cap. Gibbs spoke on the topic again on Wednesday, shortly after the team introduced its latest free agent acquisition, defensive end Andre Carter.
The Redskins have also signed safety Adam Archuleta, wide receivers Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd, tight end Christian Fauria and quarterback Todd Collins.
"The thing I want to emphasize is this: We haven't done one thing that anybody else can't do," Gibbs said. "We have certain rules in the league. Here's the cap, here are the numbers, here's what you can spend. So everybody in the league can do what we're doing, it's just that they choose not to, many of them."
Every offseason, Gibbs said that Redskins personnel officials, led by director of football administration Eric Schaffer, lay out "three- and four-year spreadsheets" that detail player salaries. The team then maps a course for player acquisitions--and how much they can spend--based on that three-year window. For example, the Redskins already know that the 2007 salary cap will be $109 million.
To get under this year's salary cap, the Redskins had to release five veterans on March 10, but none of those players were projected to start in 2006. Then the team worked out an agreement with LaVar Arrington to gain cap space while also granting the Pro Bowl linebacker his release.
The team has also worked to restructure contracts of current players. The Redskins do not typically announce contract restructurings, but Gibbs said the team has had discussions with as many as 11 players during the last two months, some before the approval of a Collective Bargaining Agreement extension on March 8.
Said Gibbs: "What happens is, other teams choose to operate differently. We know some teams, to be truthful, are $30 million under the cap. But that's their option. For many of them, they have been very successful doing it a different way."
Gibbs cited the Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XL champions, as a team that operates differently than the Redskins. The Steelers are not among the teams that are $30 million under the cap, but they do not typically make aggressive forays into free agency.
Instead, the Steelers put their focus on acquiring talent in the draft, Gibbs said.
"It remains to be seen how we'll end up doing, but we've chosen to be more aggressive in free agency," Gibbs said.