I wanted to float a hypothesis that had occurred to me and to see how you guys felt, and to see if it might actually be borne out by what has started to happen in free agency?
Here goes: The conventional wisdom is that in an uncapped year, the Skins would be able to act like kids in a candy store, able to gobble up whatever "goodies" struck their fancy in terms of coveted, high-profile free agents. The assumption was that (for better or worse) the excesses of the Snyder approach would reach a frenzied new height. If we thought the year of Deion, Bruce Smith, and Jeff George (ten years ago?) was bad, wait till this year, so the common wisdom thought. Julius Peppers? Sign him up. Karlos Dansby? A done deal. Chad Clifton. Good as ours. The oft repeated refrain is that "Nobody outbids Snyder."
But what if the fact of the matter is that the lack of a cap actually puts Dan Snyder at a comparative disadvantage? Why? My thinking is that Dan's advantage in the capped years came from his uncanny ability to make SEEMINGLY outrageous, so-called "blockbuster" deals that would supposedly lead inevitably to "cap hell" and to then find through very creative restructuring, and perhaps some magical accounting, ways to make those seemingly impossible deals work. In other words, we had mastered the art of "cap accounting and management" to such an extent that we were probably better than any other team at offering seemingly jawdropping deals (that made us admittedly the laughingstock of many league observer) in which we did in fact "overpay" but ended up never really having to absorb the full cap hit in a way that would totally destroy us.
Now, we might very well have "overpaid" in terms of talent, i.e, we might have overrated the player in question. But the point is that we had a knack for being able to do deals that would appear to be prohibitively expensive for other teams but somehow always managed to be doable for us. We "won out" (if that's the right word) vis-a-vis other teams because we were seemingly willing and able to wreck our salary cap for future years in ways that other teams wouldn't dare to do.
But now that we might be facing an uncapped year, here are two points to consider: 1) Whatever money we can offer, at least in theory ANY other team also could, and the important point is THE SALARY CAP IS NO LONGER A FACTOR IN THE EQUATION. In other words, maybe Dan's pockets aren't as deep as we might always have assumed? Who's to say that, in this uncapped year, another team might not in fact go toe-to-toe with the Dan, and even win? Previously, the need for "prudent" salary-cap management was a limitation that other teams heeded (but we seemingly didn't), but now, the salary cap limits NO ONE.
2) From a players' perspective, in the previous salary-cap era, a player would often have to "choose" between going to a team that was willing to "bust" its cap, i.e., overpay, even if that team was not as competitive (performance wise) as other teams, i.e, a lower-echelon team trying to get into the NFL elite, and a more prudent team that couldn't offer as much money but could perhaps offer other things such as a better shot at a Super Bowl ring. Now, with this uncapped year, it seems that a highly coveted free agent would be in the driver's seat in this sense: he could actually expect to go to a winning team, one that really might be just a piece away from a championship, as opposed to a rebuilding team, and still expect to collect that massive payday. In other words, he can now have the best of both worlds: it's no longer a stark choice between get paid OR go to a championship caliber team. In theory, there's no reason that the "rich" can't get richer. A team like New Orleans that just won the Super Bowl is as free as we are to spend the same on any player they covet, and if a player has to choose between $100M and joining the SB winners and $100M and joining the team that just finished last in the NFC and doesn't yet have an offense, which way do you think that player would decide? Thus, even if Dan's pockets are as deep as we think they are, it's tempered by the fact that players might have some more leverage to get themselves onto a team that's already near the top, rather than one with a lot of questions to be answered.