The head-rolling has begun for the Buffalo Bills.
Veterans Ted Washington, Chris Mohr and Joe Panos were released today as the Bills made their first roster moves designed to get themselves under the NFL salary cap.
The cuts saved the Bills $5 million against their salary cap total for 2001.
But they are just the beginning of the moves the team will need to make. The team must reduce its salary structure to $67.4 million by March 2.
Today's cuts, combined with the restructuring of contracts the team has done (for John Fina, Ruben Brown and Jay Riemersma) bring their savings to about $8.6 million. But they probably will need to create about $8 million more in savings by March 2.
They could save about $4 million by cutting Rob Johnson and restructuring the contract of Doug Flutie. That means the Bills probably still will need to reduce the salary figures for veterans such as Sam Rogers, Phil Hansen, John Holecek and Ken Irvin. They could do that either by releasing them or by getting them to accept pay cuts.
Washington, who will be 33 in April, is a 10-year veteran nose tackle who has made the Pro Bowl three of the past four seasons. He has spent the past six years in Buffalo. He still will take up $5.3 million of cap space for the Bills this year. But cutting him saves $2.3 million.
Panos, a 30-year-old guard, started all 16 games his first year in Buffalo, 1998. But injuries kept him out of the lineup most of the past two years and he has not started a game since '98. He still will count $1.8 million against the cap. But cutting him saves $2.1 million.
Mohr, who will be 35 in May, has been the Bills' punter since 1991 and is the team's career leader in punts and punting yardage. He will count $200,000 against the cap, and his release saves $550,000.
"Our salary cap situation has made this a difficult time for our fans and the organization," said Tom Donahoe, Bills president and general manager, in a statement released by the team. "But these are moves that have to be made and we have to work our way through the problems that currently exist to get our cap into shape and to conform with the league rules."
Washington's departure will have the biggest impact on the team.
The 350-pound lineman has been the cornerstone of the Bills' defense since his arrival in 1995.
He has started 95 games in Buffalo. In 2000, he had 86 tackles, the sixth-best total on the team, and was voted to the Pro Bowl.
Since Washington joined the team, the Bills have had one of the NFL's best run defenses. They ranked 13th against the run his first season, 1995. Since then they have ranked fifth, ninth, sixth, first and sixth against the run.