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Collusion suspicions arise regarding tender-reduction letters

With the NFL Players Association making a bold move against the league in conjunction with the “lockout insurance” provision in the most recent wave of broadcast-rights deals, a report from Albert Breer of the Boston Globe hints at an eventual attack regarding a potentially more serious violation.

In an item regarding the options currently facing Patriots Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, who has received a letter from the team indicating that his restricted free agency tender will plunge from $3.268 million to $1.54 million if he doesn’t sign it by Tuesday, Breer states that “the train of thought is that they are a result of a sort of groupthink
on the part of the clubs to strengthen their negotiating positions.”

In other words, collusion.

Given the plain language of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the mere creation of the letters suggests that the league office has made some sort of communication regarding the proper protocol.  Indeed, nothing in Article XIX, Section (h)(i)(i) requires teams to communicate in advance an intention to reduce the tender offer from the initial value to 110 percent of the player’s 2009 base salary.  Says the CBA on this point:  “If the player’s Qualifying Offer is greater than 110% of the player’s Paragraph 5 salary (with all other terms of his prior year contract carried forward unchanged), the Club may withdraw the Qualifying Offer on June 15 and retain its rights . . ., so long as the Club immediately tenders the player a one year Player Contract of at least 110% of this Paragraph 5 Salary (with all other terms of his prior year contract carried forward unchanged).”

Thus, everyone already is on notice regarding the rules that apply, and it would make no more sense to send a written warning of a coming reduction in a tender offer than it would to send a written warning in February that a tender will be applied in the first place.

So from where, if anywhere, does the obligation to send the warning letter come?  Possibly, it’s contained in a separate internal NFL operations manual, potentially as a suggested device for ensuring that the player can’t later claim that he had no clue that the number could drop (which could happen if his agent doesn’t his ass from a loophole in the CBA).  It also could be a P.R. ploy, bracing the media and the fans for what otherwise could be viewed as a jarring act of disrespect against a valued player.

Or it could be aimed at squeezing the players by prompting as many voices in the media as possible to declare how utterly stupid it would be to not sign the tender before June 15.  (Count us among those voices.)

If the rule regarding the sending of a warning letter appears nowhere within the league’s various procedures and manuals, then the mass sending of such missives would seem to be the result of coordinated action.  Whether that amounts to collusion in the forbidden sense remains to be seen.  As time passes, however, we suspect that the union eventually will drop a comprehensive collusion bomb on the league, pointing to every shred of evidence that arguably supports the idea that the teams have agreed to tighten the belts in 2010, in the hopes of building up the league’s lockout fund, and in turn minimizing the money that players will have if/when the work goes away in 2011.

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18 Responses to “Collusion suspicions arise regarding tender-reduction letters”
  1. Venerable Axiom says: Jun 13, 2010 9:36 AM

    And I thought it was just the Patriots front office being the Patriots front office.

  2. Dawn says: Jun 13, 2010 9:38 AM

    Don’t put words in Breer’s mouth. You’re not giving credit to teams’ front offices. Like they didn’t already know this was an option for them?
    And this is a copy cat league. Even if one front office wasn’t aware (doubtful but possible), once one team did it, they became aware they could potentially do it.

  3. burntorangehorn says: Jun 13, 2010 9:38 AM

    Simultaneous and similar action does not necessarily indicate collusion, as I’m sure a lawyer like you well knows, Florio. Groupthink is much more likely, I’d say. Teams in the NFL mimic each other, intentionally or otherwise, based on what either makes sense as a leverage tool or what teams see other teams doing successfully.

  4. Hawkeye says: Jun 13, 2010 9:58 AM

    Fans watch sports to escape the scary reality in which we live in. The last thing people want to read when turning to your page are the minutia details of the NFL CBA.

  5. SecondBestDad says: Jun 13, 2010 10:03 AM

    Geez, Florio – mouthpiece for the players much?
    This is obviously a heavy-handed attempt by the clubs to remind the players to sign or else. And yet, you read “collusion” into this, taking the players side, just like you do on every other issue.
    Sigh… I have to remember to ignore these posts and stick with the straight news ones. You know, the ones where you simply aggregate (copy) stories from all the other sites so I don’t have to look for them.

  6. KingJoe! says: Jun 13, 2010 10:04 AM

    Or is just seems to make reasonable sense. This simply is a writer, making something out of nothing. This is pure fiction. The fact that people confirm with their employees that they understand the applicable rules, is not a new concept. In fact based on past experiences, management has an obligation to reinforce the rules the employees need to follow. Regardless of whether it is langauge in a contract or a procedural step, employees often claim that management has not done enough to educate the employees.
    It really amazes me that even though these players are worth millions of dollars and have a pension plan etc, that even senators are jealous of, unionized members of the media continue to play, rich vs poor in the fight between players and owners. The even sadder part is many fans, most of which are of the unionized mind-set, buy into the ridiculous, “pity the poor down-trodden player” idea.

  7. digitalbath says: Jun 13, 2010 10:05 AM

    they can try what they want but they will never prove collusion,i dont see how they could ever prove it,so they are just shhh out of luck

  8. efangule says: Jun 13, 2010 11:55 AM

    Seems to me, this article gave Florio a reason to stretch his “lawyer” legs. No other reason for putting this boring drivel up here.
    Am I right or am I right or am i right. Right. Right.

  9. Insomniac says: Jun 13, 2010 12:05 PM

    Another possibility is that San Diego (I think they were out in front of the pack on this) did it and the other teams thought it was a good idea to hopefully get these players to sign their tenders and show up.

  10. litemater says: Jun 13, 2010 12:26 PM

    Its called a reminder letter PFT.

  11. Shamrock says: Jun 13, 2010 1:46 PM

    Grassy Knolls and Black Helicopters …
    It could be just as easily argued that the players and NFLPA are committing collusion against the NFL by having multiple players withhold their services in the same manner.
    All you need is some Deep Throat internal memo from the NFLPA, and it’s a lawsuit.
    You’ll find that item just as easily as getting the one from the NFL.

  12. GRpatriot says: Jun 13, 2010 2:27 PM

    What a stretch! Breer was so good in Dallas, he got let go! Florio is such a great lawyer he runs a sporting news website..
    Those who can do and those who can’t teach or run a website. Collective Bargaining means what exactley? Players get together and try and get more money, better benefits etc…ah union…
    When the owners follow the guidelines from the existing CBA it’s collusion??? Are you nuts, or just stupid?
    I guess you want socialism in your Government and Football Teams? Maybe I’m just pissed because I’m trying to figure out how to pay my mortgage? Paying taxes to support a bunch of folks who don’t want to pull their weight! USA will soon stand for United Socialist in America…
    Thanks Florio for making my day, ESAD!

  13. See Deb's lips move when Ben farts says: Jun 13, 2010 2:29 PM

    Couldn’t just be the front offices applying common sense, and gently but forcibly applying the leverage that the players union granted them under the rules in play with the final year of the CBA.
    Nope, not at all… must be collusion?
    Come on.

  14. GRpatriot says: Jun 13, 2010 2:44 PM

    The Patriots don’t have to worry, their Stadium is payed for. Kraft didn’t get any government handouts to build Gillette!!!
    If everything is so hunky dorey, why can’t the Jets sell teir PSL’s?????
    Maybe the large Market Teams are tired of subsididing the small market teams that are poorly run? Maybe they have to tighten their belts, the economy is in the sh!tter in case you haven’t noticed? I think the Players ought to step up and take less, like the rest of us. I remind you the Patriots have spent their money on keeping their own players. Wilfork, Faulk, Bodden, Burgess, Ghostkowski (RFA) and Bant-Cain! I have no sympathy for the players! They deserve a kick in the a$$… Look, just because N.O. overpayed a guard doesn’t mean another team that has artificially inflated the market has to make the same mistake!
    You obviously determined not to be a lawyer. Leave contract law to the experts! Ever make a payroll? Bring in clients? Litagate a case? My guess would be no! I can say without bias or any malice, you suck!

  15. HC says: Jun 13, 2010 3:06 PM

    Calm down folks, the question of whether or not there’s collusion in the way RFA’s tenders are being handled is a legitimate one. Not saying that is the case, just saying it’s a fair question worthy of consideration. One person above mentioned that perhaps teams saw San Diego handle it that way, and others simply copycatted their strategy; that’s probably the most likely scenario. June 15th is the last day teams can do this and they lose that option unless they don’t do this now. And don’t forget it doesn’t mean the team and player are restricted to that 110% salary; they’re still free to work out a deal with the player. Mandatory OTAs are around the corner and teams just want to expedite negotiations.

  16. rsxfan says: Jun 13, 2010 4:02 PM

    Florio failed to post my comment critical of him, shocking! lol What a wuss.

  17. gobearsgo says: Jun 13, 2010 6:37 PM

    Why do people bother reading this site if the only thing they do is complain about Florio in the comments?
    If I want meaningless fluff stories, I’ll go to ESPN.com. If I want to learn more about a sport I love, I come to PFT.com. I love that Florio is willing to post stories about the “boring” inner working of the CBA that I otherwise wouldn’t get.

  18. silenceformasses says: Jun 14, 2010 1:35 AM

    As much as everyone is giving Florio shit, he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
    People read things that piss them off one way or another, they enjoy it, then they feel the need to write their own opinion on the subject (like me, here).
    But with every click to this page, each and every individual page, the advertisers pay more money to Florio. That’s why he tries so hard to be quote unquote, edgy, in every post. That’s why each and everyone of you thinks that he absolutely despises your favorite team.
    Because we keep coming back for more.

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