If you were thinking the salary-cap penalties the NFL imposed a year ago on the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins wouldn't have much of an effect, here's your best evidence yet that you need to think again. Three hours into the new league year, we've heard almost nothing from two of the most historically active teams in free agency.
The Redskins reached an agreement on a two-year contract with punter Sav Rocca, and that's it. No other reports of agreements or scheduled visits by free agents to either of the two teams that played for the NFC East title in Week 17. None likely, either, in the short term. The Cowboys and the Redskins had to work their tails off for the past week just to get under the cap before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. As of Tuesday morning, the Redskins were about $3 million under and the Cowboys about $175,000 under. That's not enough room to allow for any real exciting moves. And while both teams still have some work they can do to get further under the cap if they find someone they like, the result of the situation so far is that both teams are waiting out the start of the market and looking for bargains.
A year ago, as punishment for the way the Cowboys and Redskins structured some contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, the NFL stripped the Redskins of $36 million and the Cowboys of $10 million in cap room. The penalties were spread out over two years, so in terms of this year's cap the Redskins are out $18 million and the Cowboys $5 million. The extra cap room was distributed evenly among 28 other teams.
So while the Redskins have major needs at cornerback, safety and right tackle and the Cowboys have major needs at safety and offensive line, don't expect to hear their names mentioned too much unless it's by agents looking to drum up a market or scare other teams. Neither the Cowboys nor the Redskins have the wherewithal to be major players early on in free agency, and that's why you're not seeing these two very familiar team names in any of these reports.
One report Tuesday evening, from Dan Hellie of NBC4 in Washington, said that recently released Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall was drawing interest from several teams and included the Cowboys (and Giants) among those. And while Hall is a "big name," in that he's well known, I think that if the Cowboys really are interested in him it speaks to where they are financially. Hall would appeal to the Cowboys not as a starting corner (they have those), but as a versatile veteran defensive back who could play mainly inside the numbers -- maybe some slot corner, maybe some safety -- and who could be had on the cheap as a result. I imagine Hall is still hoping for a starting cornerback job and may get one, but if he were to sign with Dallas I believe it would be later in the market and as more of a situational player. This is the kind of deal the Cowboys will need to do if they're to add talent -- creative and relatively cheap. And even if they did something like this, they'd have to clear more cap room first.