The NFL and its teams collude. All the time. About various issues. Knowing it and proving it are two different things.
When it comes to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, there will never be direct evidence of an agreement among teams or a directive from 345 Park Avenue to avoid at all costs giving Jackson a fully-guaranteed contract. But the circumstantial evidence is potent, and (as we saw today) sudden.
Free agency doesn’t begin until next Wednesday. Immediately, however, in the aftermath of the application of the non-exclusive franchise tag to Jackson, the Falcons made it known to ESPN, the Panthers made it known to TheAthletic.com, and the Dolphins made it known to ESPN that they wouldn’t be pursuing Jackson.
The last one is a bit of a surprise, given that Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reported over the weekend that the Dolphins would “explore all options” at quarterback. How can the Dolphins explore all options while giving Jackson the cold shoulder?
The pattern is troubling. It suggests that the teams are avoiding ever getting to the point where they’d decline giving Jackson a fully-guaranteed, Deshaun Watson-style contract because they’ll never even talk to Jackson. They’re just not interested.
Don’t call us. We’ll call you. Unless we don’t.
It reeks of collusion. It reeks as much as the collusion that happened with Colin Kaepernick. It reeks as much as the collusion that has gone of for a long, long time regarding the money given to coaches. It reeks as much as the collusion that plainly occurred during the uncapped year of 2010, when the Cowboys and Washington later got whacked for daring to treat the uncapped year as uncapped.
Last year, teams lined up for a crack at Watson, despite more than 20 pending lawsuits alleging that he engaged in sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions and the promise of a suspension in 2022. Deliberate or not, Watson eliminated the Browns at the perfect time, after they’d pissed off Baker Mayfield and had no viable starter. So they swooped in with a fully-guaranteed deal — and the Browns became persona non grata among their business partners. (They denied it, because of course they did. Anything else would have made things worse.)
Now, after the NFL Players Association already has filed a grievance alleging collusion in the refusal to give fully-guaranteed contracts to “certain quarterbacks,” teams that otherwise should be at least talking to a former MVP who is available for two first-round picks have made it known to the world not to bother connection them to Lamar.
We all know what’s going on. And we also know that, when push comes to shove, the collusion will never be proven.