ASHBURN, Va. – General Manager Bruce Allen said Monday the Washington Redskins were the victims of a "travesty of fairness" because of a $36 million salary cap penalty that has severely hampered the team's offseason plans.
Allen hedged, however, when asked whether the team was warned ahead of time about the behavior that brought forth the sanction, saying only that the team wasn't warned that a punishment would come two years later.
Allen and coach Mike Shanahan cried foul in a pair of who-knew-what-and-when news conferences on the eve of NFL free agency. The league's open market begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the Redskins had hoped to open their wallets and begin spending on new players to help build on last year's NFC East title.
Instead, the team cut cornerback DeAngelo Hall and restructured the contract of defensive end Adam Carriker to get under the cap — but just barely. Shanahan said more cuts will be coming in the days and weeks ahead and that the team will be a minor player in free agency.
The Redskins were docked $18 million in both 2012 and 2013 for the way it structured contracts during the 2010 season, when the NFL didn't have a salary cap. Three other teams received a smaller penalty. The NFL said it dished out the punishments because the reworked contracts "created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance" and that teams were told in advance not to take advantage of the uncapped year in such a way.
Asked twice whether the Redskins received such a warning, Allen avoided a direct answer both times.
"We were never warned that they were going to come back two years later and punish us," he said.
The very notion that a warning existed has led to allegations of collusion by the players' union, although Allen said he didn't think the league engaged in collusion. Allen also said he held the league and union accountable for agreeing to the Redskins' penalty, and he decried the fact that the team wasn't a party to the discussions and wasn't told about the sanction until shortly before free agency began last year.
"According to Commissioner (Roger) Goodell and all NFL lawyers, we did not violate any NFL rule in 2010 and 2011 or any regulation," said Allen, who also pointed out that every contract the Redskins submitted for the 2010 season was approved by both the league and the union.
Allen said he continues to hold out hope that the NFL will revoke the penalty. He said the team is not considering a lawsuit, but he declined to say what other options the team might pursue.
Allen also dismissed the team's "competitive advantage" argument.
"Ironically, today there are some teams that have over $100 million more in salary cap room than we do over the next three seasons," Allen said. "But I don't hear anyone talking about 'competitive balance' or that being a competitive advantage."
An NFL spokesman said the league would have no comment on Allen's statements.
Meanwhile, Shanahan is left to imagine what kind of team he could have built without the penalty.
"I think if you go on any football team and you take a look at $18 million or $36 million, you'll take off the best, maybe, six seven players on each team," the coach said.
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP