The NFL’s decision to remove salary cap space now from teams that dumped salary into the uncapped year of 2010 technically constitutes a violation of the labor deal with the players, because the CBA allowed teams to spend at will in the uncapped year, subject to specifically negotiated limits (e.g., six years to unrestricted free agency, the “Final Eight Plan”).
But it’s not a violation if the players agree to it.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the dynamics tell PFT that the NFLPA agreed to allow the NFL to take $10 million in cap space from the Cowboys and $36 million from the Redskins and redistribute the money to all other teams, except the Saints and Raiders. On the surface, the decision of the players to permit money to be robbed from two rich teams that like to spend it and given in equal chunks to 28 other teams (including poor teams that like to hoard it) makes little sense. With the Bengals already near $50 million in cap space, their $1.6 million share of the Cowboys/Redskins cap room quite possibly will be wasted.
So why did the union agree? The sources explain that the NFL offered to help pump up the 2012 team-by-team salary cap in exchange for the union’s agreement to remove cap money from the Cowboys and Redskins. One source said that, without the NFLPA’s agreement regarding the removal of cap room from the Cowboys and Redskins, the 2012 salary cap would have been in the range of $116 million per team. (One source said that the number at one point was presented to the union as being a paltry $113.5 million.) With the players agreeing to remove $46 million from the Cowboys and Redskins, the league agreed to a massaging of the salary and benefit numbers in order to get the 2012 salary cap up to $120.6 million. (The recalculation also kicked in some additional money that otherwise would not have been devoted to salary and benefits for 2012.)
Thus, the union had no real option. Without consenting to the reduction of the Redskins and Cowboys cap numbers, the unadjusted cap limit would have dropped, for the first time ever.
And with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith up for re-election this month, he quite possibly would not have been re-elected.
The delay in the release of the cap number directly arose from the Cowboys/Redskins conundrum. Absent this issue, the cap number would have been disclosed well in advance of the start of the 2012 league year, instead of only two days before it.
Finally, as to the notion that the NFL approved the various contracts that took excessive advantage of the uncapped year in 2010, it’s critical to consider the broader context. The union already was prepared to pounce on any possible evidence of collusion. If the NFL had decided to reject contracts because teams were taking advantage of rules that the teams had every right to take advantage of, the NFLPA would have sued — and the case would have been bolstered by the fact that, on at least six occasions, the NFL had told the teams not to treat the uncapped year as a salary dump. So the NFL approved the contracts and delayed punishment until a point where the league had leverage to persuade the union to agree to an effort to take action after the fact against teams that refused to collude.