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Uncapped year could be coming back to haunt some teams

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin (19) is pushed out of bounds by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback E.J. Biggers (31) during their NFL football game in Tampa Reuters

The CBA that expired one year today removed the salary cap for the final year, as an incentive to get a new deal in place with more than a year left on the old one.  Once the owners fully appreciated the ramifications of the uncapped year (i.e., no salary floor and two extra years to unrestricted free agency), the league had no qualms about proceeding.

But while most teams opted not to break the bank in a season without a banker, the NFL instructed teams not to use the uncapped years as a way to dump money in order to ensure that cap numbers in years with a salary cap would be lower.

And there’s currently a rumor making the rounds that multiple teams will be smacked for doing just that:  using 2010 as a cap dump aimed at either keeping the numbers manageable in 2009 and previously, or in 2011 and subsequently.

It widely was believed in 2010 that the Cowboys and Redskins had worked the system to take full advantage of the absence of a cap.  Dallas, for example, gave receiver Miles Austin a base salary of $17 million in 2010.

Though not as troubling as the Saints’ bounty program, we’re hearing that punishment of some sort could be coming for the teams deemed to have disregarded the directive.

UPDATE 3:12 p.m. ET:  It’s not just a rumor.  Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the league will remove “millions” in salary-cap space from the Cowboys and Redskins for their uncapped-year deals.

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83 Responses to “Uncapped year could be coming back to haunt some teams”
  1. nineroutsider says: Mar 12, 2012 2:22 PM

    It keeps getting better, glad all of these offenders are NFC teams other than the 9ers. What type of punishment; hope it is cap based and not simply a loss of a 5th round pick or something. They should have the amount “dumped” added to this year’s cap…the punishment would fit the crime.

  2. pnut87 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:22 PM

    Miles Austin got how much?!
    ssssshhhhhhh(insert vowel)tt

  3. nikkodawg says: Mar 12, 2012 2:23 PM

    Who gives a damn what the NFL instructed teams to do as long as they did not violate any official rules.

  4. discosucs2005 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:25 PM

    Maybe this offseason signifies a shift in NFL policy to start targeting team malfeasance instead of individual players.

  5. 7thlombardiontheway says: Mar 12, 2012 2:27 PM

    Lolz

  6. thraiderskin says: Mar 12, 2012 2:27 PM

    what a joke

  7. sfloyal says: Mar 12, 2012 2:28 PM

    The Redskins penalty should be they are not allowed to draft RG3…that would teach em.

  8. sprest83 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:29 PM

    I really don’t understand how this is illegal. Me = confused.

  9. gweez76 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:29 PM

    I don’t buy it. How would that not been seen as collusion? Since such moves were the exact point of the poison pill.

  10. tbpdog says: Mar 12, 2012 2:30 PM

    It’s weird that you use Dallas as an example, they did not dump a single salary that year. They gave Miles Austin a large signing bonus to lower their cap # in future year, but that isn’t “dumping salaries”, and they cut nobody of importance.

  11. dccowboy says: Mar 12, 2012 2:31 PM

    Given the cap issues Dallas had last year and this, if they were doing that, they didn’t do a very good job

  12. gassiusclay says: Mar 12, 2012 2:31 PM

    If it weren’t for the uncapped year, we would never been able to offload Albert Haynesworth. Now we are $31-40 million (still don’t know which number is accurate) under the cap! I feel our front office did a great job of paying lump sums to get rid of huge contracts. Many will say we were stupid pay that fat Sh*t all that money in the first place…to which I agree. That said, I feel we acknowledged the mistake, paid him, lessened his contract and moved on. Redskins nation will not lose an ounce of sleep knowing that hit Danny’s Wallet…and we are happy to move on knowing we can spend some $ of FA, now that we have secured what can be a franchise QB.

  13. pappert says: Mar 12, 2012 2:32 PM

    so basically instead of putting the bulk of the money in the back end of a deal like things typically are , What they did was put the bulk at the front end of the deal thus paying a player less when the cap is back?

  14. TheWizard says: Mar 12, 2012 2:32 PM

    This sounds more convoluted than the feds managing light bulbs.

  15. micronin127 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:33 PM

    Punishment = Collusion

    There wasn’t a cap. Some teams front loaded deals so that in the event a salary cap reappeared in the future, they would be in good shape.

    A league directive to not spend during the uncapped year would be the definition of collusion.

  16. theemrsanity says: Mar 12, 2012 2:33 PM

    With bount gate ramifications already looking large in DC, and now cap manipulation a possible scandal, does the league sign off on the Rams & Redskins deal?

    Even if they do, Washington could be looking be at their next draft pick being years away!

  17. hutch119 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:33 PM

    How about peppers and his 20 million base salary and 14 million in bonuses that year.

  18. sportsmeccabi says: Mar 12, 2012 2:34 PM

    If Jerry Jones feels like giving Miles Austin $17 million, who is the NFL to say he can’t? It’s bad enough to over pay for employees, but to actually punish the team? I think they already punished themselves in a sense.

  19. fordman84 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:34 PM

    All teams had the same abilities, so why would the league have an issue with it? If they were serious about “don’t do this” then they should have closed the loophole…aka not had an uncapped year.

  20. nxsteven says: Mar 12, 2012 2:36 PM

    Didn’t the Patriots use a similar method to lock up Brady? $16m signing bonus, something like that?

  21. romoscollarbone says: Mar 12, 2012 2:36 PM

    The Great Czar Gooddell has spoken. Or maybe he’s the great Gazoo, or maybe just Gazoo, or maybe he belongs in a zoo. What a crock. UNCAPPED year, and they want to penalize teams for shifting money to take advantage of that.

  22. trollhammer20 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:36 PM

    Dock ‘em their first round picks. What, Washington traded theirs? Too bad, so sad, give up the #2 overall.

  23. veretax says: Mar 12, 2012 2:36 PM

    So they are going to smack teams for taking advantage of the UnCapped year? really?

    That’s like saying, hey you can go the Speed Limit. there’s none posted, so we are going to give you a ticket.

    I think this is a waste of time etc.

  24. nflfollower says: Mar 12, 2012 2:38 PM

    It’s just a directive…. Sounds like they should have been more specific. A capless year is a capless year…. Don’t penalize owners who were willing to spend in a capless year. Geeesh.

  25. stevierod says: Mar 12, 2012 2:39 PM

    Only one hundred yard game last year (also had 3 td’s) against the 49ers and missed all sorts of games… think the Cowboys might wish they had a mulligan for Miles Austin.

  26. pbm984 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:39 PM

    The Bears did that with Peppers. Look at the details of his contract. In the uncapped year of 2010, his cap figure was 34.9 million, compared to 13.8 million the next year. Peppers base salary in 2010 was 20 million, but was only 900K in 2011

  27. steelbydesign says: Mar 12, 2012 2:41 PM

    Seems kind of stupid NOT to do something like Dallas did if necessary… but I guess if they were warned before hand then they will be punished.

    Doesn’t it seem like it could be somewhat of a gray area though? Who makes the say as to what is okay and what isn’t as far as base salary in a year… Yes, 17 mil is pretty crazy, but where’s the line?

  28. linvillegorge says: Mar 12, 2012 2:41 PM

    Not sure how they’re planning on punishing teams for breaking rules that didn’t exist. They could ask the teams not to do these things, but with no cap or floor in place, what grounds do they have? How are they going to define who violated this gentleman’s agreement and who didn’t?

  29. allforfunnplay says: Mar 12, 2012 2:43 PM

    Why would teams be penalized? Its not like they were breaking any rules. Teams are going to be slapped on the wrist for breaking salary cap rules that didn’t exist last year???? That’s like rescinding the speed limit for a day, driving 150 MPH to get somewhere. Then getting busted the next day when the speed limit is reinstated.

  30. asublimeday says: Mar 12, 2012 2:43 PM

    Uncapped is uncapped. They should be able to do whatever the hell they want.

  31. jahbird says: Mar 12, 2012 2:43 PM

    And I thought I couldn’t hate Roger Goodell any more.

  32. everydayimfumbilin says: Mar 12, 2012 2:44 PM

    Why is there a team still in Jacksonville?

  33. binkystevens says: Mar 12, 2012 2:44 PM

    What for? They did nothing wrong. It’s not their fault that the league rules were written that way (well partially, I suppose). What next? Punishment for teams who slap franchise tags on guys who really aren’t “franchise players”?

  34. robertx716 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:45 PM

    Look out the Bills managed their cap like professionals last year and not only were they able to keep depth @ all positions but now along with KC are major players in free agency…of course that does mean they wont be in third in the division ….but it will be fun.

  35. AlanSaysYo says: Mar 12, 2012 2:46 PM

    So if the NFL “instructed” teams not to do this, exactly how was this communicated?

    At best it sounds like a suggestion instead of a rule, and at worst it sounds like an anti-trust issue.

  36. dublindemonszfl says: Mar 12, 2012 2:46 PM

    20% of all uncapped $ the NFL earns from fines goes directly to to the NFLPA.

  37. thetroofishere says: Mar 12, 2012 2:47 PM

    How can you have an “UN-CAPPED YEAR” that is the opposite of a “CAPPED YEAR” and then try to go back and say, “since you operated as if there was’NO CAP’ in place, we have to penalize you for acting like there was no cap.”

  38. snoop0323 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:47 PM

    Let me get this straight: The league told teams not to use the uncapped year as a means to circumvent the cap in capped years, even thought the previous CBA specifically permitted teams to do so. Sure seems like collusion to me.

  39. troybulletinboard says: Mar 12, 2012 2:47 PM

    i don’t see how the league can penalize anyone for this. it’s a system they created for themselves, if a team has enough money and enough smarts to use the system to their benefit, then all the power to them.

  40. dclogicatlast says: Mar 12, 2012 2:47 PM

    Rumor has it the Redskins will lose their 2012 1st round draft pick.

  41. florkio says: Mar 12, 2012 2:48 PM

    blah, blah, blah, The Commish needs to take a chill pill, little Monarchy going on here.

  42. nyyjetsknicks says: Mar 12, 2012 2:49 PM

    You can punish teams for breaking rules when no rule were in place.

  43. jnbnet says: Mar 12, 2012 2:49 PM

    The last team to disregard a directive were labeled “cheaters”. Wonder how the Boys and Skins will be viewed by the PFT fanbase?

  44. jimmymcnultysbottleofjameson says: Mar 12, 2012 2:50 PM

    Thumbs up if you think the Redskins are the biggest joke in the Atlantic Coast Conference… wait wait I mean NFC east.

  45. terraj35 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:50 PM

    Apparently, you just have to change the majority of their salary to a signing bonus and then its all good. No cap hit. Thats all I’ve been hearing recently. Why doesn’t every team do that?

  46. mightymightylafootball says: Mar 12, 2012 2:52 PM

    So did the teams violate a hard and fast rule, or rather did they go against “an instruction”?

    Whatever. I’m sure the league office will work tirelessly to punish the owners for gaming the system during a labor dispute *eye roll*…

  47. raqaiw says: Mar 12, 2012 2:53 PM

    Not a Cowboys fan, but if Jerry worked the system to his benefit without breaking the rules why should he be punished? That’s SMART to give a premiere play a big chunk of $$ and not have to worry about the cap hit later. I bet if the Lions could go back they’dve done that with Megatron, same with the Texans and Mario Williams. Goodell works for the owners, of which JJ and Snyder are two of the most powerful, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing any serious punishments.

  48. frojo112963 says: Mar 12, 2012 2:54 PM

    Can’t resist that dig at the Saints in just about every article huh?

  49. romosexualtendencies says: Mar 12, 2012 2:54 PM

    There was no salary cap but the NFL is going to punish teams that spent too much…… not buying it.

    sorry the NFL can’t do squat in regards to teams restructuring contracts to benifit the team in the longterm! It happens all the time, just in an opposite fashion!

  50. vambomarble says: Mar 12, 2012 2:54 PM

    Is anybody surprised that Jerry Jones thought he would win a superbowl in Jerry World so broke a few rules???

  51. braven4evr says: Mar 12, 2012 2:56 PM

    Wow… they remove the cap and still want to tell teams how to spend their money.

  52. ballergac says: Mar 12, 2012 2:57 PM

    Austin’s 17 million for losing the ball in the lights? I’m not even a Cowboy fan and that play changed careers, seasons, jobs..

  53. jagerbmb says: Mar 12, 2012 3:00 PM

    I thought all NFL contracts had to be approved by the league. Did the league mess up in approving contracts they should not have?

  54. kjcmeb says: Mar 12, 2012 3:04 PM

    interesting to site Miles Austin’s deal……why not use the Peppers deal which had a $35M cap hit (if there was a cap)?

  55. dirtydrynn27 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:05 PM

    Before anybody starts bashing the Redskins,Be advised to the fact that they are 45 to 48 million UNDER THE SALARY CAP!!!!!!!!!

  56. jdandcoke says: Mar 12, 2012 3:07 PM

    the boys and skins both looking at possible league sanctions? does it get any better for a giants fan?

  57. zeke2517 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:07 PM

    So… there wasn’t a salary cap, but if the league thinks that a team spent too much, then that’s bad. Genius.

    Long live the Democratic People’s Republic of Football.

  58. kriswd40 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:11 PM

    How can you punish teams for spending over a salary cap when a salary cap didn’t exist?

  59. marcinhouston says: Mar 12, 2012 3:12 PM

    $17 mil is not enough incentive to get an unfair advantage on the field, only $15 hundred.

  60. cags777 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:13 PM

    So does this mean that the Redskins are out of the running for Vincent Jackson?

  61. descendency says: Mar 12, 2012 3:13 PM

    If they are 32 separate businesses, how is that a legal act? Isn’t the NFL ordering teams not to spend over a certain amount a form of collusion?

    I’m just curious, because I can see the NFLPA having a stroke over this.

  62. roamingabriel says: Mar 12, 2012 3:15 PM

    The Cowpies cheated?

    No way!!!!!!!!!

  63. cali49er707 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:17 PM

    at least when we were doing this SHHH we were competeing for & winning superbowls, what are these teams excuses???

  64. roamingabriel says: Mar 12, 2012 3:18 PM

    Cowboys lose $10 million in cap space, Redskins lose $36 million in space. Can split it over 2012 and 2013 any way they want. More at ESPN.

  65. russrpm says: Mar 12, 2012 3:19 PM

    Everyone want to call Jerry Jones the new Al Davis. Well, you’re about to find out if everyone is right. If the league goes ahead with this, I can see the Cowboys, as well as Washington, headed to court before the next business day, and they will probably win.

  66. bearsSTH says: Mar 12, 2012 3:25 PM

    Found this old article…..

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/09/19/team-by-team-salary-cap-numbers-if-there-were-a-salary-cap/

    Maybe the comparison choice of Mile Austin over Julius Peppers had more to do with the Cowboys having a salary number of $166M in 2010 vs the Bears $131M.

    Looks like the Redskins and Cowboys would be the most guilty of exploiting the system. Still not sure how or why they would enforce any penalty.

  67. erod22 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:26 PM

    Stupid. Then why call it an uncapped year?

    How do you determine what each teams’ intent was and dole out punishment based on a whim?

    And we find out about this the day before free agency?

  68. push4souls says: Mar 12, 2012 3:28 PM

    this is bologna.

    If Dallas wants to appeal this they will win. There were no procedures in place during the uncapped year.

    Teams were left to sign players at their own terms. If they were not collusion would be the definition.

    Its not our fault that they were smarter than other teams. Plus why only is this being talked about this year?

    Why not last year. I can see fines for the teams. But to take away cap space is cheating the players also.

    I am sure the NFLPA will fight this.

  69. mrconnors says: Mar 12, 2012 3:29 PM

    Only NxSteven would try and make this about the Patriots. We’re talking about the Redskins and Cowboys here, nimrod.

    I’m surprised Bozosforall and Thatobnoxiousguy haven’t chimed in, all 3 stooges.

  70. geemoney713 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:31 PM

    This is infuriating. No way the skins would have made that blockbuster trade if they knew they didn’t have 30-40 million of cap space! I bet they have to pull out on the deal for RG3 if this is the case, because they’d absolutely lose the ability to address needs through free agency if this is the case.

    It’s truly embarrassing the way the NFL is run.

  71. thraiderskin says: Mar 12, 2012 3:32 PM

    A directive doesn’t mean squat, each franchise is seen as a seperate business. If no actual law was broken, then how is it cheating the system? I dare someone to show me in A NFL rule book where the clubs can be told how to spend money in an uncapped year.

  72. tedmurph says: Mar 12, 2012 3:34 PM

    These teams should be punished. It’s not so much what teams spent in the uncapped year, it’s how they used the uncapped year to dump money from bad contracts during cap years or to save $ for subsequent cap yrs. This gave teams with bad contracts a way out of cap problems, or allowed teams to sign guys they normally couldn’t afford. This gives those teams a small competitive advantage. The uncapped year was an anomaly, and the league had to try to keep ‘business as usual’ as best they could. Doubt it will amount to more than a slap on the wrist, though.

  73. tedmurph says: Mar 12, 2012 3:36 PM

    Just saw the next headline, whoops.

  74. cowboyhater says: Mar 12, 2012 3:37 PM

    Let the Goddell agenda begin against Dan Snyder. They will get penalized for paying Fat Albert, and getting his lazy arce off their roster?!!
    If this is the case, then the players that were paid out should be ordered to return the money. The fans of Washington continued to get crapped on by having to deal with mismanagement of the organization.

  75. mullman7675 says: Mar 12, 2012 3:45 PM

    That’s what happens when you give Rog the middle finger. Not smart knowing how heavy handed the commish can be.

  76. granadafan says: Mar 12, 2012 4:00 PM

    The NFC South and East is starting to look like the SEC of the NFL, always cheating.

  77. 19ghost91 says: Mar 12, 2012 4:09 PM

    The problem was using large base salary numbers instead of large signing bonuses. Signing bonuses would have been spread over the entire deal hitting the cap each year. No biggie. Extremely large base salaries in an uncapped year only count that year and was done purely to circumvent future cap. Teams were told not to do this.

  78. sschmiggles says: Mar 12, 2012 4:09 PM

    nikkodawg says:
    Mar 12, 2012 2:23 PM
    Who gives a damn what the NFL instructed teams to do as long as they did not violate any official rules.
    _____________________

    Guess it depends on your definition of “rule,” doesn’t it?

    The Pats were docked a first round pick in large part because Goodell sent a memo out before the year started telling every team not to have cameras on the sidelines. The Jets had been caught doing the same thing the year before. No punishment for them.

    Funny how the anti-Pats fans only point these things out when it’s convenient for their team.

  79. jakek2 says: Mar 12, 2012 4:16 PM

    Cheating millions off the cap is not as bad as a dopey bounty system??? One affects the integrity of the game and the other rewards conduct that players are basically required to perform. This society is whack.

  80. chiadam says: Mar 12, 2012 4:25 PM

    Good. The cap exists to level the playing field and give us a better product to watch. Unfortunately, the cap has practically no teeth. It’s too easily skirted, and now teams will pay the price for trying to skirt it by loading up in an uncapped year.

  81. dietrich43 says: Mar 12, 2012 4:28 PM

    Unless the NFL plans to punish teams that wouldn’t have meet the salary floor, how do you punish the Deadskins and Crygirls for this?

  82. spinmovr says: Mar 12, 2012 4:44 PM

    Usually, it doesn’t matter how half-assed a story is on this site, but this one could use some more exposition. Journalism would be so handy here so we could have some answers to:

    What does the term “dump salary” mean in the context of an uncapped salary year?

    What did it mean to not have a salary cap in 2010?

    Why exactly are team’s being penalized in March 2012?

    Go ahead and handle those questions and tell a real story. We’ll wait.

  83. natswizskincap says: Mar 12, 2012 4:56 PM

    Amazing that teams can be punished for breaking an arms-length rule at best. Fidel Goodell!!!

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