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League rule on re-doing contracts likely wouldn’t prevent McNabb trade

You might recall hearing after the Redskins traded for quarterback Donovan McNabb last April that Washington had to wait to extend McNabb’s contract until after the first anniversary of the restructured two-year deal he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on June 11, 2009.

Well, with coach Mike Shanahan currently in the process of determining what to do with McNabb, there’s an important detail to keep in mind about the NFL’s one-year moratorium on a player re-doing his contract.

It applies only to a new contract that increases a player’s total salary (base salary and most bonuses) over the remainder of the original deal. That’s according to a league source with thorough knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement.

So how does this affect the Redskins’ chances of trading McNabb?

It doesn’t at all if a team is willing to take on the remainder of the incentive-and-bonus-laden, five-year, $78 million extension McNabb signed with Washington on Nov. 15, 2010.

If there are no takers for that contract, though, a team could still trade for McNabb and immediately sign him to a lesser contract if McNabb is willing to take a pay cut.

Now, it’s uncertain whether McNabb would be willing to take a pay cut. But maybe he would if he believed a specific situation was the right fit for him.

Let’s consider the Redskins’ options if they decide they don’t want McNabb to be their starter in 2011 and they agree with McNabb’s agent, Fletcher Smith, to part ways. Washington could either release him or trade him. (For several reasons, it doesn’t appear that McNabb would stick around as a backup.)

Releasing McNabb would cost the Redskins nothing at this point—McNabb already collected the $3.5 million signing bonus he got for signing the extension in November—but they would receive no compensation.

On the other hand, hypothetically, say there’s a team out there that wants the inside track to McNabb’s rights. The team doesn’t want to have to bid for McNabb’s services in the unrestricted free-agent market, so they offer the Redskins some compensation, whether it’s a draft pick or whatever, in a trade. And say that team doesn’t want to take on McNabb’s Redskins contract but is willing to give him a deal that’s sweeter in some aspects than what he’d receive as a free agent, thus giving McNabb incentives not to test free agency.

In that scenario, the Redskins and McNabb at least could approach a possible trade knowing that McNabb could immediately sign a new deal with a new team as long as it’s not worth more than the approximate $60 million in salary and option bonus money remaining on his Redskins contract (including payments scheduled for 2011).

So in other words, the NFL’s one-year moratorium on players re-doing their contracts probably won’t stand in the way of a McNabb trade. More likely obstacles would be teams’ willingness to take on McNabb’s current deal or McNabb’s willingness to take a pay cut.

Just something to keep in mind as we move forward.