Just when things were looking up here in D.C., the Washington Redskins will be at a disadvantage once again this coming season. In a cryptic statement Monday, the NFL announced that a small number of teams upset the competitive balance of the league with the way that they structured player contracts in 2010, the uncapped season that preceeded the lockout. Although the collective bargaining agreement that was in place during that season did not prohibit teams from restructuring contracts, the teams were warned against doing so. The only good news in all this for Redskins fans is that the Dallas Cowboys will have to suffer as well.
The NFL's statement created far more questions than answers. Let's take a look at some of the questions that we should all be asking of this new, less-documented version of the NFL.
Why are the Redskins being punished?
Because they moved significant amounts of money from the back to the front of the contracts given to Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall. This would have enabled the Redskins to have more cap space in the future. If not for the contract change, the Redskins would still be paying Haynesworth this year.
Since most of the salary cap hit is due to Haynesworth's contract, shouldn't he have to give the money back?
Yes! That's the greatest idea I've heard in a long time! Seriously though, we can't blame Haynesworth.
Who should we blame then?
First, Roger Goodell for not making the rules more clear. Then, the other NFL owners and the player's union for agreeing to this settlement. But Bruce Allen shouldn't escape the blame, either. Allen was in charge of restructuring the contracts, and he did so in a way that was specifically warned against (though not specifically legislated against) by the league. He took a gamble and he lost. In any other organization, in any other industry, executives get fired for losing $36 Million. Allen could be in trouble.
But don't teams do stuff like this all the time?
Well, sort of. On a regular basis, NFL teams have the ability to structure their player contracts in many different ways. Most teams choose to spread out the money of big contracts over multiple years to minimize the cap hit each year. Other times, player contracts will be back-loaded so as to minimize the cap hit early in the contract. This gives the team the flexibility to restructure the deal later if it suits them, and also gives an incentive to the player. In some rare cases though, such as when a team has extra cap space, contracts can be front-loaded, with the majority of the amount paid early in the term. That's what the Redskins did with Haynesworth and Hall in 2010. All contracts are submitted to the league for approval.
So if the NFL has the ability to disapprove of a contract, why didn't they reject the Haynesworth restructuring?
That's hard to say. If you asked Goodell, he'd probably just shrug his shoulders and mutter "competitive balance."
Are the Redskins and Cowboys the only teams that broke the rules?
Well first of all, there weren't any rules to break. But the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints are also apparently being somewhat penalized because they're not receiving the $1.6 Million salary cap bonus that the other 28 teams in the league are receiving from these penalties
So it stands to reason that the Redskins moved $36 million in bonus money into 2010, the Cowboys moved $10 million, and Raiders and Saints each moved $1.6 million. Therefore, they essentially are receiving a $1.6 million penalty compared to the rest of the league. And no other teams restructured player contracts in 2010 to move money into the uncapped year. And I guess no other team restructured player contracts in 2010 to move some money to a future year, because then that team should expect to receive more than $1.6 million.
Actually, I doubt any of the above is true.
There had to be other teams that broke some unwritten rule in some way. How could there not have been any other front-loaded contracts written that year? The Redskins and Cowboys may have been the most egregious examples, though.
Are the Redskins supposed to just accept this ruling and move on?
Ha! This is the Redskins we're talking about. Dan Snyder has sued many, many people for far, far less important things. No, they're going to fight it.
Will they file an appeal then?
It's not entirely clear at this point that the Redskins have any ability to appeal the ruling. The ruling itself is unprecedented, so there aren't formally established procedures for appealing it. If the league doesn't allow for an appeal and doesn't allow for the Redskins to plead their case, we might even see a lawsuit.
Would "Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones v. the National Football League" be the weirdest name for a lawsuit of all time?
Why yes. Yes it certainly would.