- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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GRAPEVINE, Texas – Jerry Jones believes his franchise is well prepared for the first step in the arbitration process for the salary-cap sanctions leveled against the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins by the NFL management council.
The first hearing is Thursday in front of arbitrator Stephen Burbank, who will determine whether the NFL and NFLPA had the authority to impose the sanctions against the Cowboys and Redskins. If Burbank rules in favor of the teams, a second hearing would be scheduled to determine how the $10 million stripped from the Cowboys’ salary cap and $36 million stripped from the Redskins’ salary cap over a two-year period should be handled.
“I can’t and won’t address the specifics and certainly wouldn’t dare try to predict what the resolution will be,” Jones said Wednesday at the Cowboys’ annual team golf outing. “I’m glad we’ve got an opportunity to present it under the labor agreement to a mediator, and that’s what tomorrow is all about. … It won’t resolve the issue, but it will help decide whether or not we can go before a mediator.”
The league leveled the sanctions after it ruled that the Cowboys and Redskins violated the spirit of the uncapped 2010 season with front-loaded contracts for Dallas receiver Miles Austin and ex-Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Jones said the Cowboys’ legal team has filed a “very good brief” and pointed out once again that the contracts were approved by the league office.
“I know we followed the rules,” Jones said. “The league has not said that we did not follow the rules. Those were approved contracts, but this is a complicated issue. Again, that’s about all I need to be saying about it and want to say about it.”
The teams opted to have half of the penalties assessed this offseason, costing the Cowboys $5 million and the Redskins $18 million in salary-cap space during this free agency period. Jones, whose team signed seven free agents from other teams, said the penalty did not prevent the Cowboys from making any acquisitions they would have otherwise but could create future complications.
“Certainly, we’ve been able to adjust,” Jones said. “It was a big surprise to us to have that downward adjustment in our cap. It was very meaningful to us because we are usually always looking for room under our cap, so it was very meaningful for us to have to make that adjustment. But I can tell you that as we stand here right now, we didn’t not do anything that we wanted to do.
“What we’ve had to do though, because they’ve reduced the amount of dollars that we had this year, we’ve had to go into the future and get some of those dollars that we wouldn’t have had to do if we had not had to make those adjustments. That’ll just create a challenge for us in the future.”