The NFL Sends Confusing Messages in Salary Cap Penalties

  • Shane Richardson
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Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL is set to penalize the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins millions of dollars for front-loading contracts during the uncapped 2010 season. League sources currently set the penalties at approximately $10 million from the Cowboys and $36 million from the Redskins.  The teams will have the option to split the penalties over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, with cap penalties split evenly among 28 NFL teams, about $1.6 million each.  Only the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints will not receive any of the money.

According to Schefter’s sources, the deductions are not termed as “violations” but are the result of an agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) to raise the salary cap number while keeping benefit increases and the performance pool. The other NFL owners complained the Cowboys and Redskins manipulation of the uncapped year was unfair. This issue is the specific reason why the salary cap number for 2012 took so long to be released as the NFL was determining how to proceed with this issue.

The biggest “violations” are the Cowboys paying wide receiver Miles Austin a $17-million base salary, and the Redskins front-loading the defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth’s contract. If anything, the Redskins should receive some compensation for the stupidity of giving Haynesworth a $100-million contract. It appears the penalties will affect the Cowboys much more than the Redskins; the Cowboys were already sitting right at the cap, while the Redskins, if they distribute the penalty over two years, will still be $18 million under. The irony is the league office had to approve these contracts before they were “legal” by NFL standards.

In my opinion, the NFL is sending confusing messages by doing this. The NFL owners opted out of the previous collective bargaining agreement, and therefore allowed the uncapped year in 2010 to occur. How can the Redskins and Cowboys be penalized for taking advantage of an uncapped year?  Is it fair to other teams? Probably not, and I am all for competitive balance in the NFL; however, the league and the owners shot themselves in the foot by allowing it. As I understand the anti-trust laws, since the NFL receives protection, the owners would not be allowed to “collude” and treat the uncapped year as a capped year. By penalizing teams for front-loading contracts in 2010, the NFL is walking a fine line by basically acknowledging teams should not have exceeded a certain threshold or manipulated the uncapped year, indicating collusion. I imagine lawyers for both teams will be taking a hard look at legal recourse for the hits. It is doubtful the NFLPA will look into this, since the NFL has already indicated an agreement with the NFLPA was in place.

Update: Per Adam Schefter, the Redskins have issued the following statement:

Redskins: “Every contract entered into by the club during the applicable periods (was) approved by the NFL commissioner’s office.”

Makes sense to me.  I pretty much expect the Cowboys and Redskins to pursue appeals on this matter.  I am an Arizona Cardinals’ fan, and I cannot see how this is fair to either team. Better idea might be to fine or fire the person in the NFL office who approved the contracts.

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