DeMaurice Smith strongly hints at possible collusion claim over fully-guaranteed contracts

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's Super Bowl Press Conference
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The Collective Bargaining Agreement does not mandate nor prohibit fully-guaranteed contracts. Whether and to what extent any, some, or all teams give fully-guaranteed contracts to players is up to each franchise.

In theory.

In practice, collusion can occur. Teams can agree among themselves to not utilize fully-guaranteed contracts. That becomes a potential violation of the CBA.

During a Tuesday interview with #PFTPM, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith strongly hinted that the union will be pursuing a collusion claim against the league over the issue of fully-guaranteed contracts.

The topic came up because Smith said that the union refers to ownership meetings as “collusion meetings.” It may seem like a joke, but it’s not. If the league, through the Management Council, urges teams to engage in certain contractual practices, that arguably becomes collusion. And these meetings are believed to include plenty of messages regarding the way the league prefers to have business done.

In March, the Browns broke ranks to give quarterback Deshaun Watson a fully-guaranteed, five-year deal. That prompted Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to call the deal “groundbreaking,” and to say that “it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”

That’s not a direct admission of collusion, but it’s the kind of thing that can become evidence of collusion. And since the Watson deal, other teams have refused and resisted to fully-guarantee quarterback contracts. Bisciotti’s Ravens have pushed back stronger than others, during the Lamar Jackson negotiations.

If/when the NFLPA files a collusion claim, things can get interesting. One of the potential remedies under the CBA is the termination of it. While the chances of that happening is slim, it shows that there are very serious potential consequences for collusion.

As the owners continue to conduct their latest round of collusion meetings today in New York, they should keep that in mind.

24 responses to “DeMaurice Smith strongly hints at possible collusion claim over fully-guaranteed contracts

  1. For QBs they’re pretty much there.

    A Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Deion Sanders-type can probably get one also. But how often do those guys come along?

  2. Of course it’s collusion, but is it illegal?

    If Apple and Google made a secret agreement to keep the salaries of top employees below a certain level, that would be illegal. But Apple and Google are competing businesses.

    Are NFL teams competing businesses or just parts of the same business…the NFL?

  3. Of course they collude. The owners are the best of friends, and the players are just another expense. The NFLPA is also a historically inept union. Players get the short end in comparison to league revenue and team values.

  4. Proving collusion is very difficult. The fact the Browns “broke ranks” and gave a fully guaranteed contract is proof in itself that all franchises aren’t colluding. Bisciotti’s comments are far from evidence of collusion. They are actually evidenced against collusion because all he could do was comment. He obviously had no input on the Browns choice. If Biscotti doesn’t want to give Lamar or anyone else a fully guaranteed contract he doesn’t have to. I am sure if Lamar hits free agency someone will.

    Watson’s contract also is not the only fully guaranteed contract in the NFL. It happens.

    If each team is independently resisting fully guaranteed contracts because of the volatility of the NFL that is not collusion. It would have to be proven there was an actual agreement in place. Good luck with that. This is going nowhere.

  5. This reminds me of when Gene Upshaw insisted the cap would never come back after an uncapped year, only for the union to discover that losing the salary floor hurt them.

    Guaranteed contracts are gonna sound great in theory, until young breakout players find that teams are a lot less willing to throw big deals at guys after only one good season. Welcome to the NHL’s “bridge” contracts.

  6. If the players don’t like their current employer I hear the XFL or USFL or one of them other leagues are hiring. Just go work there.

  7. Does anyone believe that management meetings would have something formally said about this subject? 32 team reps plus any supporting staff? Sure it goes on informally, but in formal proceedings? That seems awfully risky (and awfully dumb if it actually does). I get the union pursuing, what is there to lose. Just go to guaranteed contracts and see them drop to 2 years (or less). Or better yet, free agents at end of each year and you can get rid of this stupid stuff of giving guys giant signing bonuses before they even play a down (and some pretty much disappear after they get the $).

  8. Collusion to one, management discussing business (as they should) to another. Should the NFL owners be discussing the impact of guaranteed contracts on the business model? Yes, 100% they should. Just as they discuss all matters as it relates to the financial health of the league. To not do so would be in a word, dumb. But doing so is not collusion.

  9. Until a team shows that fully guaranteed long-term contracts actually lead to Superbowls, I don’t see why any team would want to take that risk. Who is worth that risk? Josh Allen. Probably nobody else.

  10. As a Brown’s fan (maybe not for long) the Brown’s are paying ther price for giving Watson a fully guaranteed contract, karma’s a bitch!!

  11. slippery slope, let’s be honest, if we give guaranteed contracts the league will fold. The players and agents are allowed to collude, I think guaranteed contracts or the discussion/agreement with owners not to do this should not be considered collusion.

  12. That is the opposite of collusion. The statement complains about how effective the competitive market forces are. In a league that is effectively a cartel there are so many better examples of collusion.

  13. Is it colluding when you can’t afford it? I thought we were told all about the funding rule and how it pertains to Mike Brown. Not all owners have the cash on hand. Sounds to me like not guaranteeing contracts is a business decision.

  14. So what. The players collude under contract all the time such as Davonte Adamas and Carr for one example.

  15. If only Smith could have been in a position to collectively bargain for guaranteed contracts.

  16. No contract should be fully guaranteed. Not even in basketball. That’s why the NFL is the best, they play for thier livelyhood. In basketball they take the regular season off and it’s boring. I only watch deep in the playoffs basketball

  17. This would be a weak case.
    Mainly because the Browns just gave one out.
    This is just sabre rattling by Jones to to convince the players hes helping them.

  18. “Collusion” in and of itself isn’t a crime and isn’t necessarily illegal. It’s one of those words that people put whatever meaning they want on it.
    You can “collude” with others concerning any number of subjects or topics. It only becomes a “crime” if you make a rule saying that colluding is a crime.

  19. Isnt’ the Watson contract literally all the evidence needed that there is no collusion? A team gave a fully guaranteed contract and aside from negative opinions from other owners on the contract (especially Biscotti because he can’t afford them) no action was taken against the Browns.

    I’m assuming DeMaurice Smith is fine with agents and the NFLPA pushing players for guaranteed contracts? It’s been discussed as part of numerous free agent conversations how the NFLPA pushes players to get the most money they can (and the most guaranteed!). That is just as much collusion as owners encouraging not wanting each other to give away guaranteed money.

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