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NFL takes cap space from Cowboys, Redskins; teams deny wrong-doing

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Jerry and Dan probably won't be smiling about their cap situations later today. (Getty Images)

The 2010 NFL season was an uncapped year, as a result of the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring. The Redskins and Cowboys, despite warnings from the NFL not to do so, front-loaded contracts to create more salary cap room going forward, although both teams denied Monday night that they were in violation of any NFL rules.

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CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman has confirmed an earlier report that the NFL has punished them for it, taking away $36 million in cap space from the Redskins and $10 million from the Cowboys because they front-loaded contracts in 2010.

But both teams released separate statements (though they came within minutes of each other) claiming they did nothing wrong.

The Redskins statement:

“The Washington Redskins have received no written documentation from the NFL concerning adjustments to the team salary cap in 2012 as reported in various media outlets. Every contract entered into by the club during the applicable periods complied with the 2010 and 2011 collective bargaining agreements and, in fact, were approved by the NFL commissioner's office. We look forward to free agency, the draft and the coming football season.”

The Cowboys statement:

“The Dallas Cowboys were in compliance with all league salary cap rules during the uncapped year. We look forward to the start of the free agency period, where our commitment to improving our team remains unchanged.”

So, that gives the story an interesting twist, and now you have to wonder how far the Redskins and Cowboys are willing to push this fight with the league office.

Already the league released this statement:

"The Management Council Executive Committee determined that the contract practices of a small number of clubs during the 2010 league year created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance, particularly in light of the relatively modest salary cap growth projected for the new agreement's early years. To remedy these effects and preserve competitive balance throughout the league, the parties to the CBA agreed to adjustments to team salary for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. These agreed-upon adjustments were structured in a manner that will not affect the salary cap or player spending on a league-wide basis."

According to Freeman, the NFL warned both teams multiple times about front-loading deals. The news of the cap hits was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

That money will be spread around to 28 other teams in the NFL, with each team receiving an additional $1.6 million in cap space. The Saints and the Raiders, according to Schefter, do not receive any cap relief, but will not be docked any cap space.

Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post believes that it was the contracts of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and cornerback DeAngelo Hall that caused the NFL to punish the Redskins. (Ouch.) Haynesworth got $21 million in 2010, while Hall got $15 million in the uncapped year.

Miles Austin's heavy cap number -- he received a $17 million base salary in 2010 -- resulted in the Cowboys being punished, according to Brandt.

According to the Washington Post, the NFLPA reluctantly agreed to the punishment because if the union did not, the league would have lowered the salary cap for all 32 teams.

But the Redskins and Cowboys also apparently infuriated many around the league.

“All the clubs were warned not to do anything to create a competitive advantage when the salary cap came back, and that's what [the Redskins] did,” a source told the Post. “[The Redskins] were very obvious about it. A lot of people were very angry about it. The ramifications could have been far worse for them. They could have lost draft picks. Some people recommended that to the commissioner.”

The Redskins had more than $30 million in cap space prior to the punishments, while the Cowboys only had a little less than $5 million in cap space.

As a result of the punishments, it's going to be substantially more difficult for the teams to address their respective needs. But it also appears both squads are gearing up for a big clash with the NFL.
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