WASHINGTON (CBS/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 former 49er Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon 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.
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.
Garcon’s deal is a blockbuster: five years for $42.5 million with $20.5 million guaranteed, including an $11 million signing bonus.
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 ½ 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.”