I am neither a lawyer nor a seasoned salary cap expert working for the league or any NFL team. I'll pause while some of you recover from that earth-shattering admission. I figure I will get the discussion started and then join in with what I assume will be a comments section full of expert geniuses.
Remember that $18 million of cap space that the NFL was forcing the Redskins to eat in two consecutive seasons (the cap hit that was responsible for our bargain basement safety shopping)? Well, it seems that Dan Snyder is contemplating going Al Davis on the league. In an update added to his post yesterday regarding the Redskins offseason approach to free agency, The Washington Post's Mark Maske suggests that the Redskins are "considering going to court to seek an injunction that would hold up the start of free agency" because the organization feels it can prove that it would suffer "irreparable harm" without said injunction.
The "Turd in the Punch Bowl" strategy, as I am calling it, involves the Redskins taking the NFL to court--or more importantly, making the NFL believe that the Redskins will take them to court. This is NFL brinkmanship at its finest. You see, no owner in the league wants to see the NFL being taken to court on this, and that includes Dan Snyder. This issue is murky, muddy and very, very dangerous (to the league).
The NFL enjoys a very sweet antitrust exemption granted to it by Congress. If a particularly saucy owner decided to go rogue and take the league to task for COLLUDING, it would create a very juicy target for some legislator out there looking to make a name for his or herself. After all, this whole thing is about the league potentially acting to railroad the union. Congress would have a field day going after the antitrust exemption if this thing sees the inside of a courtroom.
The Redskins (and Cowboys) both treated the uncapped year like, well, an uncapped year. Their deals were approved by the league and in compliance with the rules--the rules that are written, that is. The whole purpose of the uncapped year is to keep the owners honest and compel them to negotiate a CBA in good faith. If the league was working to subvert that effort by colluding, there will be a line of legislators dying to lead the charge against the league. With so much actual work to do in Congress, you just know that these guys will be drooling to get America's head turned in a different direction. What can take the sequester off the front page? The NFL.
The problem is that Dan Snyder could lose by winning. He stands to lose with his fellow owners if this thing ends up in court. I get the sense that the league is just brash enough to consider calling Dan Snyder's bluff. We're talking about a group of rich guys that didn't make their billions by backing down. How many super-wealthy individuals do you know that like to be told what to do? Imagine that the one telling them what to do is Dan Snyder. So on one side you have an owner who knows he is right, and on the other side you have a group of owners who define "right" in whichever way suits them on any given day. Whether Snyder thinks he can win in court or not, his real threat is just getting to court at all. The league knows that Dan Snyder might have to be nuts to take the league (including himself) to court and so maybe they decide to believe he is not that nuts. At that point, who knows what will happen?
In the meantime, the main job for the Washington Redskins is to try their absolute best to make the rest of the league believe that they are willing to drop a live grenade in the boardroom. From seeking an injunction to hiring Gloria Allred, I expect the Redskins legal team to develop and follow a very precise playbook here. Think Wile E. Coyote's playbook. They will expend all efforts, but they don't want to actually catch Road Runner here.
There are so many angles to this that can't be adequately covered by a hack like me in one post, but it does require mentioning that the NFLPA is very likely still nosing around this one as well. Despite the fact that they signed away their ability to pursue claims during this time period, if the Redskins raise this issue up the ol' flagpole, look for DeMaurice Smith to re-engage, Maverick-style.
This issue has it all: gads of money on the line, an entire sport potentially held hostage, a bunch of rich guys supported by a multi-billion dollar money printing operation at each other's throats, a player's union that is not afraid to mix it up with said rich guys, and a second group of rich folks that act like they are more important than the rest of us (Congress). Not to mention you have Barnum and Bailey's biggest competitors--the Washington Redskins organization--gearing up for a three-ring show that will set all these pieces moving in potentially unpredictable directions. Not to mention that free agency itself, always an exciting time in D.C., could be in limbo.
Here's what I really want to know: If this thing goes to court and the Redskins "win," can the judge prevent the team from overpaying for Kory Lichtensteiger and DeAngelo Hall?