To ordinary folk, $36 million is a lot of money. To NFL folk, $36 million is a lot of money.

That penalty was given to the Cowboys and Redskins yesterday after they structured contracts during the uncapped year in 2010 in a manner that led to a competitive advantage. The punishment is severe for both parties, but could have been particularly crushing for the Redskins, a team desperately looking for some remotely positive results in the NFC East, and now needs to go about the business of supporting Robert Griffin III, who they essentially acquired from St. Louis.

Now it appears that hammer will still land on its intended target, but the impact won’t be quite as heavy immediately.

Both teams will be required to absorb a minimum of half of that $36 million penalty this year, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. My abacus indicates that half of 36 is $18 million, meaning the punish is still stiff, but slightly more manageable through some contract creativity.

From Maske:

It is not clear how the salary cap reduction, ordered Monday by the NFL, will affect the Redskins’ approach to signing players in free agency. But it does appear to at least complicate the Redskins’ plan to spend aggressively on the free agent market, potentially requiring the team to rework the contracts of current players to create salary cap space if needed.

Prior to this penalty the Redskins had plenty of cap room, with roughly $31.1 million to work with. Now that number will dwindle to a minimum of $13 million, which still provides plenty of wiggle room, but not nearly as much as the ‘Skins expected during their mission to make a big splash, which is an annual Dan Snyder mission.

The Cowboys remain significantly over the cap after the penalty despite the option to spread out the impact ($13 million). That could result in the departure of Laurent Robinson, the free agent wide receiver whom the Cowboys were hoping to re-sign after his breakout season when he filled in for the injured Miles Austin and finished with 858 receiving yards.

Laurent’s production nearly doubled his previous career high in receiving yards, and in a strong receiver market headed by Marques Colston, teams likely won’t spend big to gamble on a potential one-hit wonder.

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