One week after having their salary caps reduced by $46 million over the next two seasons, the Redskins and Cowboys filed a complaint against the NFL and the NFL Players Association to have the discipline overturned.
The league docked the Redskins and Cowboys $36 million and $10 million in cap space, respectively, for seeking a competitive advantage by front-loading contracts during the 2010 season, when there was no salary cap.
Teams had been warned by the league not to structure contracts in such a way, because it could negatively affect competitive balance in 2011 and beyond, when a new collective bargaining agreement was expected to kick in. By dumping large financial guarantees into the uncapped year, Washington and Dallas not only were able to retain or sign potential impact players, the league contends, but also have greater salary-cap flexibility under the new CBA.
In a statement released at the time of the discipline, the league stressed that the Redskins and Cowboys did not violate the salary cap; instead, the league argued, they "created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance".
The teams are expected to base their claim -- likely to Special Master Stephen Burbank -- on two things: one, the Management Council approved the contracts; and two, how could they be at fault when there was nothing in writing that prohibited them from structuring contracts as they did?
There is the perception among some that the league was making up rules as it went along. However, one person familiar with the situation said the NFL had no way of knowing what impact the contracts would have down the road because the league and union still were negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. Consequently, the Management Council felt it would be wrong to disapprove the deals.
By advising teams against front-loading contracts in a year in which teams were permitted under the CBA to spend as much -- or as little -- as they liked, a case possibly could be made that the owners colluded to try to suppress wages. The union filed a collusion charge against the league during the labor negotiations, but it was resolved as part of a "global settlement" in the new labor pact. It is unclear whether they can file a new claim if previously unknown information is discovered in the appeal brought by the Redskins and Cowboys.
The claim is supposed to be heard by a three-judge arbitration panel, but a union source said it likely will be heard by Special Master Burbank because the judges have yet to be appointed to the arbitration panel under the current collective bargaining agreement.