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On Cowboys/Redskins cap issue, NFL and NFLPA revised CBA without a vote

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The NFL’s decision to remove $46 million in cap space from two teams that love to spend and to redistribute it to 28 other teams, several of whom hate to spend, continues to receive plenty of attention, despite the launch of free agency.

Of course, the fact that the news hit the day before the start of free agency, when the Cowboys and Redskins typically spend lots of cap dollars, has given the story far more traction than it would have had at any other time of the year.

Surely, the league would have preferred to slip this one through the media/fan five hole on Christmas Eve or the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  Indeed, of all 366 days on the 2012 calendar, the worst day to have this kind of news break was the day that it broke — the day before the opening of the annual free-agency marketplace.

But it came out now because the league needed leverage in order to get the NFLPA to agree to it.  And the NFLPA agreed because the league in exchange helped pump the salary cap from $116 million to $120.6 million for 2012, which may have helped NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith save his job, given that his contract expires this month.

Last year’s cap was $120.375 million; a drop less than eight months after the signing of a new CBA would have potentially triggered a mutiny.

So, fine, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to this.  But here’s the thing.  To the extent that the league and the union were agreeing to a fairly significant modification of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it happened without formal approval being obtained by the league (via 24 of 32 owners) or the union (via its Executive Committee and Board of Player Representatives, at a minimum).

If pushed, the league and the union surely would claim that so-called “side letter agreements” routinely are executed between the parties, without membership votes.  Still, under that device, any proposed term that would be unpopular with either or both side’s membership during “normal” CBA negotiations could be deferred until after the ink dries on the deal, and then reduced to a “side letter” that is negotiated without a vote.

On something this important, shouldn’t there have been a discussion with ownership and an opportunity to vote?  Four teams (the Redskins, Cowboys, Saints, and Raiders) likely would have voted against the move; if five more would have agreed that it was wrong to punish teams for refusing to engage in collusion, the measure would have died.

More importantly, even if the player-leadership of the NFLPA had decided that it made sense to agree to the reallocation of the cap space in order to get the cap number for 2012 higher than the number in 2011, the exercise of educating the Executive Committee and the Board of Player Representatives could have sparked the same mutiny that would have happened if the NFL had simply dropped a $116 million cap bomb on the players.

That mutiny could still be looming when the union heads to Hawaii this month.  (Or Florida.  Or wherever they’ll be having their tax-deductible working vacation in 2012.)

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33 Responses to “On Cowboys/Redskins cap issue, NFL and NFLPA revised CBA without a vote”
  1. earfsten7 says: Mar 14, 2012 11:33 AM

    I hope Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder sue the pants off the NFL.

  2. cowboys282 says: Mar 14, 2012 11:36 AM

    Whats this? Collusion, backroom deals, and rich people trying to squeeze people to get richer.

    Is this the NFL or Wall St? Starting to get hard to tell the difference.

    NFL needs to start getting things back to football and stop trying to ruin the integrity of the game we all love.

  3. millertime30 says: Mar 14, 2012 11:36 AM

    Who can find a better lawyer? The tandem of Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder, or Roger Goodell and his NFL goon squad?

  4. tdk24 says: Mar 14, 2012 11:37 AM

    So the Raiders don’t get the salary bump because they cut Jamarcus Russell? Weren’t they penalized enough just by drafting that guy? It’s like the league thinks that Al sat down and said “hehe, i know a way to cheat the cap, i’ll draft Russell, then cut his ass 3 years later, hehe.” Give me F’ing break!

  5. defscottyb says: Mar 14, 2012 11:39 AM

    2010 was a year without a salary cap… period. How can you penalize any team for doing nothing wrong? It’s like announcing an all-you-can-eat buffet and then telling the patrons as they walk in “don’t eat too much or you will be penalized” and sending them the bill 2 years later. Makes absolutely no sense at all.

  6. edavidberg says: Mar 14, 2012 11:51 AM

    This is a tough situation … while the teams did not violate the letter of the law they were warned repeatedly against front loading deals. I have no sympathy for the Redskins or Cowboys for that reason, they thought they could get away with it despite being warned.

    With that said, why were the contracts approved? Why wasn’t a specific standard set? there is gross incompetence from the NFL on this issue.

  7. mnovis says: Mar 14, 2012 11:51 AM

    The NFL front office seems to be getting dangerously close to believing they are all powerful and can not be questioned….this may have some far reaching ramifications if it goes to court, because its clearly illegal.

  8. hellabasedlol says: Mar 14, 2012 11:53 AM

    Why are teams that spent as little as possible not penalized? They affected competitive balance as much as overspending teams, if not more.

  9. bhester1906 says: Mar 14, 2012 11:53 AM

    1. How can you opt out of a CBA to have an uncapped salary year but try to modify the consquences of your actions of your vote by telling teams not to take advantage of the uncapped year?

    2. How can you approve the deals of a team and then penalize them a year later?

    3. How is spending too much money having a negative effect on competition but not spending any money isn’t? (Last time i checked the Bucs, who spent no money because there was no floor are now buying the top free agents across the board.)

    4. How can you give that money to other teams?

    5. Isn’t it a bit fishy that the guys who are complaining, other owners, are somehow getting an additional million bucks?

    6. How is this not collusion?

    7. How is Goddell still have a job?

  10. rg3isvictory says: Mar 14, 2012 11:54 AM

    Fat Albert kills the skins one more time!!! Let’s hope it’s the last time!! Danny Boy should fight this tooth and nail. Worst case Dan can’t get the league to change its position but he’ll have fan support for the 1st
    Time!!! Or he wins and gets a reduction or complete removal of this ridiculous judgement and becomes a hero to the fans! Not even he thought that could ever happen!!!

  11. tedmurph says: Mar 14, 2012 11:54 AM

    Right or wrong, these teams were warned repeatedly by the NFL not to do this so the league could maintain it’s ‘bigger picture’ goal of keeping an even playing field, the goal of the cap in the first place. What these teams did doesn’t just effect 2010, but preceding and subsequent yrs. The teams decided to ignore the warnings and are gonna have to pay. If the NFL and NFLPA signed off on it, there’s not much these teams can do about it. Although the penalty seems excessive, did these teams really think the NFL would just turn their heads and do nothing?

  12. bergencountyjc says: Mar 14, 2012 11:55 AM

    With all these issues concerning money throughout the league, is it really necessary to have meetings in Hawaii? There’s 31 facilities available.

  13. jason1980 says: Mar 14, 2012 11:56 AM

    NFL guilty of collusion?? Wonder what the fine will be, maybe Godell will suspend himself from the league for life? I love it when the “pot calls the kettle black”.

  14. urfinished says: Mar 14, 2012 12:16 PM

    And how come no teams that underspent on purpose in the “uncapped year” were penalized as they were saving money to gain a competitive advantage in the future?
    There are SO many holes in this…I’d be shocked if the cowboys and indians didnt get some sort of resolution…but what?
    And the fact that the head of the committee that finalized this decision is the owner of one of their two division rivals (Mara) makes this even worse.
    And ot those saying they were warned with a letter multiple times…then the league shouldnt approve the contracts. Dont approve the changes and none of this happens. They are trying to retroactively correct something they screwed up on in the first place. Poor argument.

  15. cowboyhater says: Mar 14, 2012 12:16 PM

    RG3 will make us skins fans forget about this once the season starts. We’ll be fine. We have more on this roster than the rest of the league is giving us credit for, and these second year players will prove their worth this year. The blessing in disguise here is that we will not have to worry about big contracts to 1st round picks the next couple of years, while still being able to draft our 2nd – 7th round draft picks, for those years. F u Goddell, and that goes for the rest of the cry baby owners who didn’t have the balls to payout those huge contracts to create room under the cap.

  16. raiderfankirk says: Mar 14, 2012 12:18 PM

    Al Davis would have had a field day with the NFL in court on this one.

  17. stevecmh says: Mar 14, 2012 12:18 PM

    If the NFL was so concerned about the impact of an uncapped year on competitive balance in the league, why did they decide to opt out of the labor agreement anyway?

    After all, it was their decision that triggered the uncapped year that they were so concerned about in the first place.

  18. skin94249 says: Mar 14, 2012 12:18 PM

    That 116 million cap would have lost D. Smith and 32 players reps their jobs !!!!! Smith may still lose his.

  19. maverick2560 says: Mar 14, 2012 12:22 PM

    Secret discussions, ignoring procedural requirements, maybe the NFL looks at it’s rights under the new cba in a similar way the Bush administration considered it’s power under the Patriot act. The way Roger Goodell acts is eerily similar.Perhaps the NFL looks at the union the way the Bush administration looked at it’s new supreme court. Wait….that is giving the nflpa much too credit..they have clearly thrown the towel in…..remember the Gene Upshaw critics….I think it is clear that even he would not have given up like the union has as of late.

  20. srobert1117 says: Mar 14, 2012 12:24 PM

    I don’t know why people are blaming Goodell and the NFL front office. They work for the owners. The other owners pushed for this which is why fighting it will go nowhere.

    The Redskins and Cowboys can’t really go to court with the argument that as they were thick as thieves with regards to the TV contracts and other forms of collusion that took place leading up to the new agreement. They were simply trying to get one over on the system and the other owners. Now their partners are whacking them and they don’t like it. Arguing antitrust is biting the hand that feeds you. I am sure any protest not in the courts will be voted on by the owners. Any fight in court will hurt all parties involved more than it will help.

  21. jamaltimore says: Mar 14, 2012 12:32 PM

    Are you trying to prove the obvious that the 32 owners collude for the best interest of the sport? Aren’t you the same guy that though Jeff Kessler could ruin the sport. If skins and cowboys go forward with legal case they would be directly asking the Government to step to remove the anti trust exemption the NFL needs to remain for the sport we all love.

    When you consider the two clubs involved I’m sure they would like to achieve that. Isn’t that the reason they are now being reprimanded by the other 30 owners?

    Funny the rivalry between the cowboys and redskins is now a joke on the field and you wonder if it comes from the fact that the owners are buddies and tied together as 1 and 1a most hated owners in pro sports.

  22. seattlecvd says: Mar 14, 2012 12:35 PM

    There were other teams that spent far less than they would have needed to under the old CBA who also gained a competitive advantage by choosing NOT to spend money when there was no salary floor. Yet, we don’t see the NFL punishing those teams. My bet is that there are some very high-priced lawyers at work drafting up some serious litigation documents to be delivered to NFL headquarters. I am also willing to bet the Cowboys and Redskins come out on the winning side of this one.

  23. fatoldsun1 says: Mar 14, 2012 12:37 PM

    1. How can you opt out of a CBA to have an uncapped salary year but try to modify the consquences of your actions of your vote by telling teams not to take advantage of the uncapped year?

    They front loaded contracts so future capped years didn’t account for this. They were told not to do this. They didn’t spend more.

    2. How can you approve the deals of a team and then penalize them a year later?

    They didnt know what the cap would be at the time. There was no CBA so they had to wait and see.

    3. How is spending too much money having a negative effect on competition but not spending any money isn’t? (Last time i checked the Bucs, who spent no money because there was no floor are now buying the top free agents across the board.)

    They told 32 teams not to front load. If 2 did it, then it is unfair to the other 30 teams.

    4. How can you give that money to other teams?

    They just gave cap space so the NFLPA would cry foul taking that money out of the pool. They negotiated a final sum in CBA.

    5. Isn’t it a bit fishy that the guys who are complaining, other owners, are somehow getting an additional million bucks?

    It was unfair what the Redskins and Cowboys did. Need to be punished.

    6. How is this not collusion?
    No CBA at that time.

    7. How is Goddell still have a job?
    He does a great job IMO and runs a multi billion $$ corporation that is thriving.

  24. bigjdve says: Mar 14, 2012 12:40 PM

    tedmurph; edavidberg;

    An uncapped year means that you can spend your money how you will. The reason that there was an uncapped year was in theory supposed to be an incentive to get a deal done sooner, so that teams couldn’t do exactly what the Skins and Cowboys did.

    A deal wasn’t reached. The uncapped year was agreed upon by the Owners and the NFLPA. There was a CBA in place at that time.

    Warning the owners not to spend like they did if nothing else violates the who definition of an uncapped year. Basically they were saying, we know it isn’t capped BUT you still can’t spend. That is a violation of the CBA.

    Also when you have a cap there is a hard ceiling and a hard floor. There were no punishments for the teams that didn’t spend so that they would have more money now. How else do you think that the Bucs can afford to do what they are doing now.

    Forget that it is the Redskins and Cowboys, look at the bigger picture. The next time a CBA agreement comes around and the players call collusion they will bring this up in court and they will have a hard time winning, just because the PA has someone that was trying to save his arse doesn’t mean that telling the owners not to spend is acceptable or even legal.

    It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

  25. khuxford says: Mar 14, 2012 12:52 PM

    This is getting more and more traction. The NFL and NFLPA leadership violated the rules and, quite likely, the law. I don’t think DeMaurice Smith survives this, while Goodell has been far too successful in his run to get jettisoned just for this. Don’t get me wrong: it’ll burn up much of the good will he’s engendered.

    To folks saying the teams didn’t violate the letter of the law, but they were warned: they didn’t violate the spirit of the law, either, because there was no actual written rule. Had there been on, they’d have been sued because IT WOULD HAVE BEEN COLLUSION AND ILLEGAL.

    I’m a Jet fan (insert jokes here), so I’m not saying this as someone who truly gives a heck what happens to the affected teams. But this was just flat out wrong.

  26. billfromnorthernvirginia says: Mar 14, 2012 1:05 PM

    To me, as a fair-minded sports fan, this is very serious. I wonder if there are federal criminal laws that have been violated here, with respect to both illegally changing a CBA and with regard to antitrust. Where is DOJ on this?

    Putting the criminal aspect aside, how would the NFL and other owners defend a civil suit? The crux of their defense is that the 2 teams in question refused to participate in a scheme to depress player salaries in the uncapped year. That CLEARLY violates Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

  27. laserw says: Mar 14, 2012 1:37 PM

    Apparently the NFL has a bounty system on the Redskins and Cowboys.

    Will the NFL commish banish himself for life?

    Will Danny and Jerry sue the NFL out of existance?

    Will the ankle-biting owners of small market teams finally get it that the Redskins and Cowboys make it possible for the ankle-biters to actually stay in business?

    I knew this “ruling” didn’t pass the smell test.

    Prepare for the fireworks. The ‘skins and ‘boys will be colluding with their lawyers (the best that money can buy) to ensure the NFL is taught a lesson. And it is about time this Commish gets his buttocks tanned behind the woodshed.

    This is going to be delicious – no rules broken – backroom deals – violating own rules to punish teams which didn’t break any rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. tedmurph says: Mar 14, 2012 2:02 PM

    Teams that didn’t spend didn’t get a competative advantage, they just affected there own bottom line and the product they put on the field. That’s their business. They couldn’t roll over money they didn’t spend, since there was no cap. Also, under the old CBA the spending floor was 75% of the cap, about 90 mil in 2010. Only 2 teams spent less than that, TB and KC.

    The NFL just tried to keep control of a system that has made it the best league in sports. If you want to call it collusion or anything else, it was for the greater good. The NFL approved contracts because they didn’t violate the CBA, but warned teams that taking advantage of the anomalous uncapped yr, affecting future yrs, would come with consequences. The league and the union agreed on how to deal with it. I don’t see the problem.

  29. glen1904 says: Mar 14, 2012 2:31 PM

    It is collusion but just like Wall St. were not one billionaire has seen a court the Billionaires in the NFL can do what ever they want. Its the new American way. More and more I just want football on Sat. and hunt and fish on Sun. The NFL is a joke! and they will be losing fans, don’t let them hit and punish owners that want to win so all the “bottom line profit is all that matters” owners don’t look bad. as much as i hate the BCS this product has become worse.

  30. nortonfest says: Mar 14, 2012 3:53 PM

    PFT, I know you have a few other things going on this week, but I would really love to see an article with real contract data from other players on other teams. Many people are holding up the Bears contract to Peppers as an example, but you guys could put some real facts before us instead of what is being put into the comments.

    I am on the side that this smells rotten, and as a Cowboys fan would love to see Jones stick it to them. The fact that Jerry has been so quiet on this issue so far amazes me more than anything else!

  31. nortonfest says: Mar 14, 2012 3:57 PM

    PFT: “The NFL’s decision to remove $46 million in cap space from two teams that love to spend and to redistribute it to 28 other teams, several of whom hate to spend, continues to receive plenty of attention, despite the launch of free agency.”
    The Cardinals only carried over $2 million of the possible $7 million from 2011. Just an example of one team that won’t be spending the extra $1.6 million that they get via this scam.

  32. skinsfaninnebraska says: Mar 15, 2012 12:54 AM

    This is a total screw job by the NFL. I hope Snyder and Jones take the league to court and get this thrown out, and I hope it costs De Smith and Big Brother Roger their jobs. What a bunch of crap to punish franchises who havent done anything wrong.

  33. anthonyfromstatenisland says: Mar 15, 2012 2:20 AM

    So, the owners and the union revised the CBA without a vote.

    The shape of things to come regarding the 18-game schedule? 🙂

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