Carroll County Times

Redskins' cap woes self-inflicted

Without pause the verbal fusillade keeps coming from the team facility: Coach Mike Shanahan. General Manager Bruce Allen. Larry Michael, the in-house broadcaster. London Fletcher, the voice of the locker room. Really, every fan accustomed to competing for annual offseason championships has pot-shotted the NFL over what Allen calls "a travesty of fairness."

From their perspective, Roger Goodell is the cruel and unjust parent, and the team is a bunch of helpless, furled-lip toddlers sentenced to timeout.

Please. Stop the sniveling. Enough with this selective memory.

There is a reason owner Daniel Snyder isn't able to outbid every other owner and steal away a safety like Dashon Goldson or a left tackle such as Ryan Clady, or even an Aqib Talib or Reggie Bush. There is a reason Washington's pro football team can't address its numerous defensive backfield needs, including Cortland Finnegan a year ago - why a $36 million deduction in spending over two years was leveled by the league last March.

Contrary to local belief, it's not the dark forces of Emperor Goodell and his legal department of Sith Lords.

It's called organizational hubris, and it was practiced most deftly by the team's brain trust during 2010, the year the league did not have a salary cap in place leading up to its labor standoff.

The team has somehow convinced many of its legions these sanctions just appeared like white smoke over the Vatican.

Reality Refresher: Three years ago NFL owners agreed that teams would not be allowed to exploit the uncapped year to gain a competitive advantage. There was not a written edict violated or a binding contract broken. There were simply a few teams who made a mockery of a negotiated solution to preserve competitive NFL balance, and the most conniving and manipulative among those teams, the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys (who suffered lesser penalties), basically got voted off the island by their peer group.

End of story.

No vendetta by a single NFL owner, maniacally plotting in New York.

No personal payback by the NFL commissioner.

Nope. Just a self-inflicted wound by another group of executives who foolishly believed they were the smartest guys in the room.

The good news is, Shanahan, Allen, fans and others can milk their victimhood, use the penalties as excuses for cutting or not re-signing players.

In fairness, some hard questions probably still need to be answered.

Do I feel bad for the players who never had a say in their bosses' clumsy decision to gamble future free agent dollars away? Yes.

If the NFL's oversight body was under the auspices of federal or state law - and not a private company of billionaires - would the team have a much better chance of legal recourse? Sure. But that's the same consequence of self-governance many Fortune 500 companies abide by.

Were the penalties somewhat arbitrary, subjective and harsh? Yes.

But more important: Were they warranted?

Reality Refresher II: In 2010 the team employed a deceptive loophole that allowed them to distribute all of Albert Haynesworth's $21 million signing bonus and make it count against the 2010 salary cap, instead of rationing it over the length of his deal. This is doable in years the NFL imposes a salary cap. But it was forbidden that particular year, when the Redskins used it to create future flexibility, so they could spend like crazy in a year they happened to acquire Griffin.

DeAngelo Hall's deal was similarly front-loaded, and suddenly a roughly $142 million payroll became $170 million, enabling the team to reap the benefits of more than $30 million as soon as the new collective bargaining agreement was signed between owners and players - far exceeding other team's ability to spend.

Look, when rules aren't merely bent but all but obliterated, something had to be done. That's the reason they can't afford to procure the talent upgrade they want at significant positions until next offseason. All the legalese and semantics won't change that.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for the Washington Post