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NFL, NFLPA battle could spread to 2012 restricted free agency

Mike+Wallace+New+England+Patriots+v+Pittsburgh+ywsTg57cv03l Getty Images

With the NFL and NFLPA suddenly getting along even worse than the Hatfields and the McCoys, it makes sense to think about other ways in which the fight could manifest itself.

The union now claims that the teams engaged in collusion two years ago, establishing a secret $123 million per-team salary cap.  Though that claim wasn’t specifically made before the current CBA was signed, the NFLPA previously claimed that the teams agreed among themselves not to sign each other’s restricted free agents in the uncapped year, when players with four and five years of service fell under the rules of restricted free agency.

Given that the union is now pursuing a collusion claim that arguably was waived by the current CBA, it’s hardly a stretch to wonder whether the NFLPA will turn its attention to restricted free agency in 2012.

Of the 42 restricted free agents, not a single one signed an offer sheet.  The pool included players who could have been had with a first-round pick as compensation (like Steelers receiver Mike Wallace and Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb) and players who could have been had for no compensation (like Steelers offensive lineman Doug Legursky).

There’s currently no publicly-known smoking gun that would prove that the teams have a wink-nod understanding that restricted free agents are off-limits.  But the objective proof suggests that something is happening, just like it did when teams weren’t signing restricted free agents in 2010 — and just like it did when teams treated the uncapped year as anything but uncapped.

The only question at this point is whether the NFLPA will point a finger and fire up the legal engines.

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19 Responses to “NFL, NFLPA battle could spread to 2012 restricted free agency”
  1. kodakinvegas says: May 24, 2012 2:08 PM

    Sh, come on Mike, quit instigating weve got ENOUGH going on already

  2. cletusvandam says: May 24, 2012 2:08 PM

    Didn’t a few different teams inquire about Mike Wallace? He wasn’t offered a contract because his demands were ridiculous.

  3. angrycorgi says: May 24, 2012 2:10 PM

    “and just like it did when teams treated the uncapped year as anything but uncapped.”
    —-
    Minor correction: “and just like it did when MOST teams treated the uncapped year as anything but uncapped.”

  4. butthatmakestoomuchsense says: May 24, 2012 2:18 PM

    Why can’t the owners just play by the rules?

  5. deerpathdave says: May 24, 2012 3:25 PM

    I understand it probably happened, but I really don’t think any rules were broken.
    1. Several teams did spend substantially over the cap and the league approved the contracts. Several teams also spent significant under the floor. So the teams did deviate from the previous rules as the agreement allowed.
    2. It may be an inaccurate characterization (at least legally) to say the teams that spent more were “penalized”. Once a new agreement was in place, the league took a look at the competitive landscape and determined that several teams had a competitive advantage due to previous spending. The remedy was to deduct from their current salary cap WITH concurrence from the NFLPA. So the NFLPA and the League both agreed to an adjustment under the current agreement.

  6. coolzog says: May 24, 2012 3:28 PM

    Or maybe nobody felt like giving up a first round pick to make Mike Wallace the highest paid WR in the league?

  7. phillyphever says: May 24, 2012 3:48 PM

    I don’t get it. Why would the NFLPA be upset about teams not signing RFAs when 1) there were only two (Wallace and Webb) that were worth a damn, but were asking too much and 2) the rest of the RFAs were either scrubs or backups. The last RFA that was worth-wile was Welker, and that was 6 years ago.

  8. CKL says: May 24, 2012 4:01 PM

    Isn’t the RFA market usually pretty slow?

  9. tialen says: May 24, 2012 4:24 PM

    Seriously, who is going to sign a guy and have to give up both a 1st round pick and a huge contract, when instead you can draft a guy in the 1st round and have him for 5 years for next to nothing?

    The rookie wage scale has effectively squashed any restricted free agent deals for the next 10 years. It makes no sense at all to pay in picks anymore.

  10. cuffhimbanano says: May 24, 2012 4:56 PM

    This would make sense except there’s just too many dumb teams who prefer to waste a late first rounder on a project and reach like the 49ers instead of just giving the pick up for the guaranteed guy with only 3 years on the tires.

  11. dlionfan says: May 24, 2012 5:18 PM

    Why give up a 1st round draft pick & take on a huge salary when you are getting good rookies cheaper with the new wage scale & save yourself a headache. They are just thinking long term & draft picks are valuable again without the huge contracts then pick up ufa’s when a good one is there to fill spots.

  12. majbobby says: May 24, 2012 5:26 PM

    Ever think with the Rookie wage scale draft picks value are greatly increased in teams eyes.

  13. myopinionmattersandyoursblows says: May 24, 2012 5:31 PM

    boo

  14. qj1984 says: May 24, 2012 5:51 PM

    Frankly now that the rookie pay scale has been put in it makes much more sense to gamble on using your first round pick. Sure Lardarius Webb could have been had for a late 1st round pick but he also would have cost 50 million dollars which is 10x more than what those late guys are going for. Mike Wallace also could have been had for a late 1st round pick but he wants Calvin Johnson/ Larry Fitzgerald money. That’s like 20 times more than the guy a team would have chosen with that pick.

  15. macwomack says: May 24, 2012 6:18 PM

    I have said it before and I will say it again there is no smoking gun cause Mara has not talked to the press yet. Once he does….the union will have their smoking gun.

  16. Deb says: May 24, 2012 6:19 PM

    Generally, I support the players in union matters. But if I’d be thrilled to go a lifetime without ever again hearing the names De Smith and Jeffrey Kessler as well as Jeff Pash.

  17. macwomack says: May 24, 2012 7:12 PM

    Can we get Mara to discuss this … The union wants another three bil….

  18. macwomack says: May 24, 2012 7:14 PM

    Once Mara discusses this the union will fire up that engine

  19. themage78 says: May 25, 2012 2:18 PM

    SHOCK AND AWE! Owners don’t want to spend $$. Come on. They aren’t going to get anything out of these lawsuits.

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