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Washington Redskins salary cap: Why did they get money taken away?

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Washington Redskins officials and fans continue to grumble Tuesday after the National Football League stripped the franchise of millions of dollars worth of salary cap space.

The Redskins devoted a large amount of salary to players like Albert Haynesworth in 2010 to circumvent 2011 and 2012 restrictions, the NFL says. (Photo: Associated Press)

On Monday afternoon, the NFL announced that the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys would be penalized for violating salary cap rules spurring from the 2010 season.

ProFootballTalk.com reports that the punishment means that Washington will have $18 million less to work with for both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. As originally reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Redskins will forfeit $36 million in cap space, half of which the team must forfeit during this upcoming season.

In contrast, the Cowboys must give up $10 million in cap space over the next two years.

Why is this happening?

The 2010 NFL season was played without a salary cap thanks to the impending end of the league's collective bargaining agreement, meaning that during that year, teams were technically allowed to spend as much as they wanted on players.

League officials told NFL.com's Albert Breer that during that season, the Redskins and Cowboys "created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance" by front-loading contracts to several players to avoid paying them more during future seasons.

By that technique, the NFL says that the teams were trying to spend a lot of money during the uncapped year and set those contracts to expire before owing them even more during future years in which the salary cap would be reinstated. According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, teams were warned during that season at least a half-dozen times that dumping salaries in 2010 would come with consequences.

"The Cowboys and Redskins engaged in 'systematic dumping' of salaries into the uncapped year, despite the warnings," Florio said.

It was in 2010, Breer reports, that the Redskins gave huge money to players like Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall.

Both the Redskins and Cowboys say they fully complied with league rules about the salary cap during the 2010 season.

“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," Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said in a statement on Monday.

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