As the saying goes, salary cap shenanigans make for strange bedfellows. Or something.
Arch rivals on the field, the Cowboys and Redskins find themselves facing the loss of millions in salary cap space ($10 million for Dallas, $36 million for Washington) for allegedly treating the “uncapped year” of 2010 too literally. In statements issued only minutes apart on Monday night, both teams stated that they at all times complied with the rules.
“The Washington Redskins have received no written documentation from the NFL concerning adjustments to the team salary cap in 2012 as reported in various media outlets,” Redskins G.M. Bruce Allen said. “Every contract entered into by the club during the applicable periods complied with the 2010 and 2011 collective bargaining agreements and, in fact, were approved by the NFL commissioner’s office. We look forward to free agency, the draft and the coming football season.”
Said the Cowboys, through a spokesman: “The Dallas Cowboys were in compliance with all league salary cap rules during the uncapped year. We look forward to the start of the free agency period where our commitment to improving our team remains unchanged.”
Before the uncapped year of 2010, the NFL told the teams “at least six times” not to dump salaries into the uncapped year. But any agreement among the teams aimed at limiting spending in the uncapped year constitutes clear and obvious collusion.
The league approved the contracts when submitted because the union would have cried foul if the NFL had tried to apply limits to the uncapped year that didn’t exist in the CBA. All along, the league planned to serve up a cold plate of salary-cap revenge against the Cowboys and Redskins at a later date, at a time when the union would be inclined to agree to an after-the-fact effort to punish anyone who opted not to limit the players’ supply of cash in the months before the lockout.
In hindsight, the league’s effort to penalize the Redskins and Cowboys (and to a lesser extent the Raiders and Saints) proves that the NFL indeed had a plan in place to keep spending low, by not signing restricted free agents to offer sheets and/or by hiding behind internal budgets to justify a failure to aggressively spend in unrestricted free agency.
Or, as in the case of the Cowboys and Redskins, discouraging teams from taking advantage of the rules that applied at the time.
The union has opted not to pick at old scars, in large part because the league’s willingness to bump up the 2012 salary cap from $116 million to $120.6 million likely averted a mutiny against NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, whose contract expires this month.
The the procedure for challenging the action isn’t clear, but the Cowboys and Redskins should fight. Though the NFL deftly persuaded the players to agree with the plan, the Cowboys and Redskins are being penalized for one simple reality.
They refused to engage in collusion.