We know the who and what of this story: The Redskins and Cowboys had $36 million and $10 million of cap space, respectively, taken away from them by the league Monday. The why, when and how of this story is more difficult to piece together, but some details are trickling out.
From ESPN's NFC East blogger Dan Graziano, who has come out strongly against the league's ruling, this tweet:
Sources tell me NFL and NFLPA agreed to these Cowboys and Redskins penalties as part of negotiations on 2012 salary cap number.— ESPN Blogs NFC East (@espn_nfceast) March 12, 2012
Rich Campbell of the Washington Times essentially provided confirmation of same with this tweet.
The NFLPA won't appeal #Redskins cap penalty b/c it's part of a union agreement with the NFL, a league source says.— Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) March 12, 2012
Meanwhile, Graziano just posted a Q&A on the NFC East blog, the first two questions and answers of which are reproduced below.
Q: What exactly did they do?
A: During the uncapped 2010 season, teams were repeatedly warned by the league not to structure contracts so that big money was assigned to 2010 in order to attain future-years cap relief. They were told there would be penalties if they did this. The Cowboys and the Redskins, to a greater extent than the league's other 30 teams, ignored these warnings and engaged in such behavior anyway. Miles Austin's contract with the Cowboys, which included a $17 million base salary in 2010, is being brought up as the prime example.
Q: How did they get caught?
A: The complaints against the Cowboys and the Redskins for engaging in perfectly legal behavior that violated no actual rules but only the collusive backroom dictates being issued by the league came not from the league office but from the other 30 teams, who were doing what they were told while the Cowboys and the Redskins were not. The other teams demanded action, since they were the good soldiers, and so the league decided it needed to take some.
So there you are. These penalties came about not as a result of any rule-breaking on the part of the Redskins or Cowboys, but as the result of collusion between the other 30 teams and a rubber-stamp by the Commissioner and the NFLPA. (Remember, back in 2010, the NFL saw nothing wrong with the bonuses paid to Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall that are now apparently beyond the pale.)
In short, the NFL decided to stop acting like a legitimate business and start acting like a cartel. The fact that franchises owned by Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones, two of the NFL's most odious overdogs, bore the brunt of the punishment doesn't make it any less true.
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