On Monday, a report surfaced that the Redskins could file a lawsuit against the league challenging the lingering $18 million in cap penalties. As shocking as that prospect would be standing alone, the report also suggested that the Redskins could seek an injunction aimed at delaying the start of all NFL free agency until their challenge to the cap penalty is resolved.
Since Monday, there have been no further developments — apart from news that the Cowboys won’t be spooning on the litigation mattress with their arch rivals. (Of course, the Cowboys wouldn’t need to; if the penalties are overturned as to the Redskins, notions of competitive balance would compel the league to overturn the penalties as to the Cowboys.)
Here’s the biggest problem that the Redskins would encounter, if they try to delay the launch of free agency: They made it to the playoffs in 2012 despite enduring the first half of the $36 million cap charge. The fact that the Redskins took their medicine in 2012 and still qualified for the postseason will make it harder to show that they will suffer “irreparable harm” by entering free agency without their $18 million in cap space.
That’s what the Redskins will have to prove in order to delay free agency — that proceeding to free agency without $18 million will hurt them in a way that no eventual judgment could ever fix. Given that they thrived in 2012 without the other $18 million, a judge would likely say that the Redskins won’t be irreparably harmed by waiting for a possible $36 million cap credit in the future, if they win in court.
Then there’s the fact that the Redskins delayed filing suit until the brink of 2013 free agency. While the statute of limitations applies to the availability of “legal” remedies (i.e., the payment of money), waiting too long could make it harder to obtain “equitable” relief (i.e., an order blocking the start of free agency until the case is resolved). The NFL would argue that the Redskins could have filed this suit at any point in the past year, giving it a chance to get the issue resolved before 2013 free agency begins.
Of course, the Redskins likely waited because of the NFLPA collusion case that the Redskins’ strenuous objection to the cap penalties spawned. Now that the collusion coast is clear, the Redskins can go forward.
That likely won’t help the Redskins in court, because it’s unlikely that the Redskins would admit that they waited due to collusion concerns.
It all adds up to a bluff by the Redskins that if push comes to shove would likely fail on the issue of blocking the start of free agency. But if the goal is to recover the $36 million in lost cap money, the Redskins would likely win.