Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas are both free agents, but neither is really “free” because of the franchise tag. If one player signs a long-term contract, it could set the market and help the other in negotiations. And so it could be beneficial to both the Cowboys and the Broncos to make sure that neither team gives its franchise receiver a big-time deal.
But if the Cowboys and Broncos discussed such a deal, that would be collusion. And the NFL Players Association is investigating whether that happened: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the NFLPA believes the Broncos and Cowboys had discussions about Bryant’s and Thomas’s contracts, in violation of the collective bargaining agreement. (PFT has confirmed that the NFLPA indeed has these suspicions.)
If there’s proof of collusion, Bryant and Thomas could sue for damages. But collusion can be hard to prove.
Bryant and Thomas have until Wednesday to reach long-term contracts. If they can’t, they can only play this season on the one-year, $12.8 million contract that comes with the franchise tag.