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Redskins will they fight

Redskins still not ready to yield in cap fight

Posted by Mike Florio on March 10, 2013, 11:20 AM EDT

Their reported plan to file a lawsuit that could delay the start of free agency ended up being a bluff.  But when it comes to pursuing a return of their $36 million in stolen cap space, the Redskins aren’t ready to yield.

While it’s unclear whether the Redskins will pull the pin on a litigation grenade that could put a chunk of shrapnel in the rear end of every NFL team (including the Redskins), the Redskins still aren’t letting it go, according to a source familiar with the thinking of the front office.  With all teams convening in Phoenix starting next Sunday for the annual league meetings, that also could be the site of the team’s last-ditch effort to broker a deal.

If no deal can be struck, the question becomes whether Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will file an antitrust lawsuit against his partners, essentially claiming that the NFL punished the Redskins and the Cowboys for not observing rules of the uncapped year that didn’t appear in the collective bargaining agreement between the 32 franchises and the NFLPA.

While the case, on the surface, has plenty of appeal, having one NFL team accuse the bulk of them of collusion would attract plenty of interest elsewhere.

Even though the NFL already has defeated the union’s effort to sue for collusion that obviously occurred in 2010, the NFLPA could still pursue other avenues once the Redskins file a civil complaint that amounts to a smoking gun.  For example, we’ll possibly hear all over again about the NFL’s tax-exempt status and broadcast antitrust exemption in an effort to get Congress to threaten to take action in response to what could easily be construed as obvious proof of corruption in one of the most public of all American endeavors.

And so the Redskins sit at the poker table.  The question isn’t whether they have a good hand; they’ve got a Royal Flush.  The question is whether they’ll be willing to show their cards where doing so could put the entire operation into the toilet.

It was surprising, to say the least, to see the Washington Post report regarding the willingness of the NFL Players Association to support the efforts of the Redskins to recover via the legal system $36 million in salary-cap space that was stripped of the franchise for treating the uncapped year as, well, uncapped.

Lost in the lengthy Post article is one undeniable reality that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the NFLPA to do anything:  Last year, the union agreed to $46 million in penalties against the Redskins and Cowboys as part of the quid pro quo that bumped the salary cap from $120 million to $120.6 million.

Though it was in the league’s interests to find a way to prevent the cap from contracting (which it would have done but for a measure of mathematical magic), NFLPA leadership had a much more urgent reason to prevent a shrinkage of the cap only seven months after the new labor deal had been signed.  Executive director DeMaurice Smith was up for re-election later that month, and an ouster would have been far more likely if the team-by-team spending limit had shrunk.

The union, then, would have agreed to pretty much anything to get the cap to go up — and it’s mildly surprising that the NFL didn’t push for even more.  Talking now about joining the Redskins in a possible legal challenge against the NFL serves only to stir a dog that is better left sleeping.

Put simply, the Redskins are in the mess because the NFLPA’s agreed they would be.  With friends like that, the Redskins would never again need another enemy.

**** the Redskins

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