|"What we're doing is a combination procedural and legal and all of that." -- Jerry Jones (Getty Images)|
On Monday, March 12, the day before free agency began, the NFL stripped $36 million in salary-cap space from the Washington Redskins and another $10 million from the Dallas Cowboys as punishment for excessive spending during the 2010 season, which was uncapped due to the expired collective bargaining agreement.
On the surface, it appears to be another case of the league cracking down on rule-breakers. Take a closer look, though, and it's the NFL that could be in the wrong. According to a PFT report from March 12, owners were told "at least six times" that there would be "serious consequences" for teams that used the uncapped year to "dump salaries."
The problem? If true, that's collusion.
Which is why the Redskins and Cowboys might consider legal action. On Friday, Dallas owner Jerry Jones spoke about the $10 million penalty.
"We will and have expressed that we don't agree with that," Jones said according to the Dallas Morning News. "What we're doing is a combination procedural and legal and all of that."
The sticking point for Jones: the league didn't have an issue with any of the Cowboys' contracts at the time.
"I don't want to make our case here," he said. "But all of our contracts were approved by the league and you can't approve a contract that is in violation of league rules. You can't even get it on the books if it isn't in sync with league rules. So you start there."
Why did the league approve the contracts then? As PFT.com's Mike Florio wrote 11 days ago, "The league approved the contracts … because the union would have cried foul if the NFL had tried to apply limits to the uncapped year that didn't exist in the CBA. All along, the league planned to serve up a cold plate of salary-cap revenge against the Cowboys and Redskins at a later date, at a time when the union would be inclined to agree to an after-the-fact effort to punish anyone who opted not to limit the players' supply of cash in the months before the lockout."
And why did the league allegedly "warn teams at least six times" about overspending in the uncapped year? Money.
The plan was to keep more money in owners' pockets in case the lockout meant no football in 2011. "Arguing that the NFL has now punished the Redskins and Cowboys for breaking ranks necessarily would expose that strategy," Florio wrote last week.
The situation is so peculiar that the Cowboys and Redskins, sworn enemies and NFC East rivals, now find themselves on the same team.
"First of all, there is no joy in Mudville, having to team up with the Redskins on a point with the league," Jones said. "They're competitors, not cohorts. It just shows you, independent of that, some of the issues we have with this cap space issue. Sometimes you can have strange bedfellows and this is one of them."
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