United's Budget Roster and Payroll for 2014, after a big week....

Larry French

With D.C. United making a lot of moves, I thought it might be worth revisiting the payroll status of the side, vis-a-vis the salary cap. To recap, previously, the team let go of Dwayne De Rosario (cap hit of $367,500), Carlos Ruiz, ($75,000), Marcelo Saragosa ($110,000), Lionard Pajoy (about $200,000) and shed the rest of Brandon McDonald's wages (reportedly 80% of his 2013 contract, so maybe about $200-210,000). It's a rough guess, but United probably had freed up about $950,000 in cap space (within about $25,000 either way).

This week the team also freed up another $110,000, with the departure of Dennis Iapichino. They've also declined options on John Thorrington, Daniel Woolard and James Riley. If the team does not re-sign any of the trio, then the team has freed up about another $395,000. That would be a grand total of about $1,450,000 and change -- literally one-half of last year's cap figure. That's a pretty impressive figure -- but, it bears noting that this comes from the salaries of 9 players, which is about half of a team's 18-20 player budget roster.

Of course, the team has also added 3 players in the past week, all to the budget roster. Picking up Sean Franklin's option means $225,000 (plus, presumably a raise of 5%, or about a total of $237,500). Bobby Boswell will probably get paid his 2013 wage plus 5%, so he'll be making a little over $230,000. We have no clue what Davy Arnaud's agreed wage is under his new contract, but I'm going to guess it's about $200,000-$210,000 -- that would represent about a 30% cut from his 2013 salary (and more than that if you compare it to what Montreal would have had to pay him). Seems reasonable to secure another guaranteed year.

So, United is taking on an additional $670,000-$675,000. That's getting us under $800,000 of cap room left (maybe $575,000), without bringing in the allocation dollars. That's for a 23-man roster, with 7 open slots. Of course, the germane thing isn't how many roster slots would be left, but rather how many salary capped budget slots remain. By my count, the team has filled 14 of the 18-20 slots (Davy Arnaud, Bobby Boswell, Nick DeLeon, Sean Franklin, Bill Hamid, Dejan Jakovic, Jared Jeffrey, Perry Kitchen, Chris Korb, Lewis Neal, Sainey Nyassi, Chris Pontius, Luis Silva and Casey Townsend).

If the team were to bring back Woolard (maybe $65-75,000), Thorrington ($110,000-125,000) and Riley ($75,000-85,000), that would put us between $500,000 and $550,000 of cap room left -- and only 1-3 budget slots left. If the team drafts a top senior like Mullins, they're not likely to get an off-budget minimum wage deal like Taylor Kemp got. This might put some pressure on the team to go after a Generation Adidas underclassman. On the other hand, the roster tightness might close off options to bring back all three of the above-mentioned players.

Presuming the team will go after a DP and maybe two or three more international players, what would the roster/budget implications be? A DP would bring the cap space down close to $400,000, even without bringing back Thorrington, Woolard and Riley. If all three came back, the team would only have the regular cap room for maybe one more international player -- and the money available might be somewhat limited if the team were to bring in Mullins or Birnbaum, presumably at about $70-90,000.

Of course, all the allocation money the team has would create more flexibility, allowing the team to bring in several higher-priced foreign players and shoe-horn their deals under the cap. Presumably, the team had over a million in allocation dollars (though that number might be somewhat lower, depending on how much we gave Toronto to get Silva). While that money is often used to pay off transfer fees, it could also lower the cap hit of a bigger deal that would otherwise be a DP-level deal.

If the team is going to save room for a summer signing or two, they could even sit out the current window -- depending on who gets drafted and/or re-signed. If the team picked a senior and signed the three vets, there would only be 2 budget slots left. Of course, it's possible that other United players might get released in preseason (Nyassi and Townsend must be worried about their jobs). More likely, though, the team will only bring back one or two of the vets and might draft a Gen Ad player, which would open up 2 or 3 slots for more players to come during the preseason, while still leaving open slots for the summer window. We can also expect that the team will keep some allocation in reserve for summer moves.

One other consideration is the likelihood that the team will go after another player in the second phase of the Re-Entry Draft. I am also wondering what's going to become of Kevin Alston, whose name was pulled back from the RED list. I still have a hunch that he's headed home, to D.C., in a trade. Even if Alston is not headed here, the team probably ought to keep at least $150,000 targeted for the next phase. In fact, to sign Heath Pearce or Fabian Espindola, it might take more than that, probably around $200,000-$225,000.

The remaining cap space and the roster slots will further restrict the team's flexibility to bring back the veteran United trio. Assuming the team does add another RED player, then, at most, the team will have only 5 budget roster slots open, going into the Superdraft and the January transfer window. Depending on whether the team adds Alston or Pearce, we might not see either Woolard or Riley back, and bringing in Espindola would probably foreclose Thorrington's return. If Espindola is the pick, United would probably bring back at least one of the defenders, though this could be influenced by the Superdraft pick. If the team adds a new defender in the RED and/or the Superdraft, Thorrington might yet return instead.

As for striker talent, we probably have to wait for the transfer windows, though we may get a prospect in the Superdraft. Right now, the team has 5 international player slots (though one might go to Espindola, and it's always possible we draft a foreign kid in the Superdraft). We await Eto'o, but the team should probably try to find an international player who can contribute when the league competition resumes in March. There is that allocation money......

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