Sources: Two teams lose cap space

Updated: March 13, 2012, 9:03 PM ET
By Adam Schefter | ESPN

The NFL is taking away millions of dollars of salary-cap space belonging to the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins for front-loading contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, according to league sources.

The salary cap is projected to be $120.6 million in 2012, but the Cowboys will lose $10 million, while the Redskins will be docked $36 million in cap space, sources said.

Sources said Monday that the amounts the Redskins and Cowboys have been penalized off the cap could be split up any way the teams chose for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

But Tuesday, on the website that teams use to chart other teams' cap situations, the league has deducted $18 million from the Redskins and $5 million from the Cowboys this year.

Twenty-eight NFL teams will receive $1.6 million of additional cap space, the sources said. The teams receiving money can also choose to split it over the 2012 and '13 seasons however they see fit.

Cincinnati, Denver, Jacksonville, Jacksonville Minnesota and Tampa Bay chose not to take the additional room in 2012, a league source said, and will instead get the money in 2013.

The New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders are the only two teams that will not receive a portion of the money, but will also not lose any of their own cap space, according to sources.

"The Management Council Executive Committee determined that the contract practices of a small number of clubs during the 2010 league year created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance, particularly in light of the relatively modest salary cap growth projected for the new agreement's early years," the league said in a statement Monday. "To remedy these effects and preserve competitive balance throughout the league, the parties to the CBA agreed to adjustments to team salary for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

"These agreed-upon adjustments were structured in a manner that will not affect the salary cap or player spending on a league-wide basis."

During the pre-lockout 2010 season, the collective bargaining agreement expired and the league operated without a salary cap.

According to sources, the Cowboys and Redskins took immediate cap hits during the 2010 season that normally would have been spread out over the length of the contracts, giving them an advantage that other NFL owners found unfair.

In September 2010, the Cowboys signed wide receiver Miles Austin to a six-year extension worth $54 million and paid him a $17 million base salary that season.

Also, as part of the original deal, Austin was to receive a base salary of $8.5 million in 2011, but Dallas created cap room before the season by lowering Austin's salary to $685,000 and turning $7.855 million into a signing bonus.

"The Dallas Cowboys were in compliance with all league salary cap rules during the uncapped year," the team said in a statement Monday night. "We look forward to the start of the free agency period where our commitment to improving our team remains unchanged."

The Redskins also denied any wrongdoing, with general manager Bruce Allen issuing a statement protesting the team's innocence.

"Every contract entered into by the club during the applicable periods complied with the 2010 and 2011 collective bargaining agreements and, in fact, were approved by the NFL commissioner's office," the statement said.

With free agency starting Tuesday, Washington is about $40 million under this year's cap. The Redskins saved more than $3 million in cap room Monday when they released cornerback Oshiomogho Atogwe -- one of their big free-agent signings from last year -- and fullback Mike Sellers.

Dallas is about $5 million under the cap.

So Washington has 16 players who could leave, plus tight end Fred Davis, who received the franchise tag and would bring two No. 1 draft picks if he signs elsewhere.

Dallas has 15 free agents, including quarterback Jon Kitna, who has announced his retirement.

The league took an abnormally long time to release the 2012 cap number, due in part to the fact that the league was trying to decide how to handle the issues, the sources said.

According to the sources, the deductions are not termed as violations, but are part of a recent agreement the NFL and the players' association made to raise the salary cap number while preserving benefit increases and the performance pool.

Information from ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.