More fallout from Redskins/Cowboys cap case

May, 23, 2012
5/23/12
2:00
PM ET

A day after the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys saw their complaint over a combined $46 million in salary-cap penalties dismissed by an arbitrator, one of the entities against whom that claim was field has decided not to let the matter rest. The NFLPA has filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL alleging that the owners' spending practices in the uncapped 2010 season amounted to collusion. The suit claims the owners established a "secret $123 million salary cap" for that season and that the Cowboys, Redskins, Saints and Raiders "did not fully abide by secret NFL rules to suppress player salaries."

Here's my attempt to answer a few of the more popular questions I'm getting on this:

Q: Why is the union doing this now? Didn't they sign off on the cap penalties against the Redskins and Cowboys when the league decided to impose them?

A: Technically, yes, but they weren't happy about it. The NFLPA believes the NFL strong-armed them into agreeing to those penalties by threatening to reduce the 2012 salary cap by about $7 million per team if they did not agree. Faced with that alternative, the union believes it chose the lesser of two evils by agreeing that two teams lose $46 million over the next two years (and have that money redistributed to the other teams) rather than have more than $220 million taken out of the overall pool, which is what a $7 million-per-team cap reduction would have meant. As I've written several times, this was not a shining moment for the union, and they're angry that the NFL forced them into that decision. This may well be revenge for that tactic.

Q: Can they win?

A: I don't think so, since as a condition of the end of the lockout last year, the players agreed to drop all pending litigation against the league, and the league claims the agreement clearly covered litigation for offenses both "known and unknown." The union will argue that the impositions of the penalties against the Redskins and Cowboys brought previously unknown information to light, and that they never agreed not to sue over this specific behavior. But if that "known and unknown" clause is legit, it's hard to see how they have a case. One point to note, however: This suit has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, under the jurisdiction of Judge David Doty, who has leaned so heavily in favor of the players in past disputes that the owners made it a point to remove arbitration matters from his jurisdiction in the new collective bargaining agreement. It was arbitrator Stephen Burbank, historically more friendly to the owners, who threw out the Redskins' and Cowboys' complaint Tuesday.

Q: Will this help the Redskins and Cowboys get their money back?

A: I can't imagine how. The teams agreed to abide by Burbank's ruling Tuesday, and if the union were to succeed here, the players would be awarded damages. It's possible, if it's determined that there was collusion and the Redskins and Cowboys did not engage in it, that those two teams could be exempted somehow from having to pay the damages. But I don't see how they get their cap money back as a result of this.

I'll keep on top of this as far as it affects the division, but as you can see by the last answer there, the part about which most Redskins and Cowboys fans care is almost certainly settled. As always, I welcome any questions you have on this on Twitter, in the mailbag or in the weekly chat, and I'll do the best I can to help you understand it as far as I do myself.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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