On Monday, the Eagles and the Cardinals swapped a pair of rookie draft picks. Later that same day, the Redskins and Rams did the same thing.
On Tuesday, the Redskins cut the fifth-rounder they’d acquired from the Rams, linebacker Hall Davis.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the NFLPA is monitoring whether the teams made the trades to circumvent a specific rule of the uncapped year that guarantees any rookie draft pick 85 percent of the first-year minimum salary of $310,000.
Apparently, trading the rookie doesn’t trade the obligation. So when the Redskins cut Davis, the Redskins — and the Rams — avoided the requirement to pay Hall $272,000.
On the surface, the NFLPA has a point. On the other hand, the NFLPA agreed to these terms, just as they agreed to an increase in the minimum years for unrestricted free agency from four to six. Plenty of players have been screwed by the uncapped year. As to Davis and other 2010 rookies, they’re not losing something they would have had in a capped year.
The real issue here, in our view, isn’t whether the spirit of the 85-percent rule was violated. Instead, the transactions — specifically the Rams-Redskin trade — could be interpreted as evidence of collusion. Surely, the Rams and Redskins knew what they were doing when swapping two unwanted rookies; they were essentially agreeing to a quid pro quo that gave each team a chance to dump a player while saving $272,000.
There’s no specific provision of the CBA’s Anti-Collusion clause that addresses this precise issue. But Section 1(e) of Article XXVIII arguably is broad enough to cover this situation, by encompassing any agreement “concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to any player for inclusion, or included, in a Player Contract.”
Either way, the Redskins and Rams may have outsmarted themselves on this one, and in an effort to save $272,000 they may have fueled a broader attack on the league’s overall perceived (or actual) lack of player spending in the uncapped year.
UPDATE: A league source tells us that the money wouldn’t have gone to Davis, but that it would have gone to the other rookies who made the team, distributed based on the number of downs played by the rookies. So, basically, the Rams may have screwed their rookies other than Hall Davis out of their cut of $272,000.