Yours truly has been reading the 2011 CBA, and it has some interesting things to say about how a conflict between the Redskins and NFL would likely play out. Let me first disclaim that this was compiled after a quick skim of some of the sections relating to the salary cap and disputes stemming from that process, but there may be a foundation for a challenge of the penalties here.
The CBA suggests that the Redskins can get their case before the NFL System Arbitrator by submitting a player contract to Commissioner Goodell which is then rejected for failing to comply with the salary cap rules. A major question is whether any player would agree to let his contract be the test case, but perhaps the Skins could do something like sign free agents right up to the cap minus $18M figure, and then extend Orakpo's contract and take a big cap hit this year. In the worst case scenario, where the deal is rejected, Orakpo is still a Redskins and the team is still at status quo.
Anyway, if you're following along at home, the relevant CBA section is ARTICLE 14 ENFORCEMENT OF THE SALARY CAP AND ROOKIE COMPENSATION POOL.
Section 4 of that Article reads:
Commissioner Disapproval: In the event the Commissioner disapproves any Player Contract as being in violation of Article 7, Article 9, Article 10, or Article 13, he shall at the time of such disapproval notify the NFLPA, all affected Clubs, and all affected players of such disapproval in writing and the reasons therefor. Except as required by the terms of this Agreement, nothing in this Agreement is intended to affect (i) any authority of the Commissioner to approve or disapprove Player Contracts and (ii) the effect of the Commissioner's approval or disapproval on the validity of such Player Contracts.
Article 13 lays out the accounting rules for the salary cap, so if the Commish bounces a Redskins' submitted player contract because it doesn't comply with the cap rules of Article 13, Roger'll have to explain why the team has exceeded the cap in writing - which should be illuminating just by itself.
Section 5 is where our hope should lie - it reads:
System Arbitrator Review: In the event that the Commissioner disapproves a Player Contract pursuant to Section 4 above, the NFLPA, any affected Club, and any affected player shall have the right within thirty (30) days of such person’s notice of such disapproval to initiate a proceeding before the System Arbitrator to determine whether such contract is in violation of this Agreement. The System Arbitrator shall review the dispute de novo, and shall have the authority to approve such Player Contracts in lieu of the Commissioner's approval, or confirm the Commissioner's disapproval. In the event the Commissioner's disapproval is upheld, the player and the Club shall have ten (10) days to attempt to renegotiate such Player Contract notwithstanding any other time period set forth in this Agreement. The System Arbitrator does not have the authority to impose any revisions to such Player Contract on the player or the Club.
So I think this presents at least one way to have the Redskins' grievance see the light of day, and make these spiteful and cowardly jerks put their justifications onto the table. I can't say I'm confident the team will win through this process, but I think the short term goal should be shedding light on what's actually happening and what basis the NFL claims to have to behave this way.