Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole is reporting that, according to multiple sources, the NFL Player's Association was "strong-armed" into an agreement with the NFL that led to the penalties against the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins for going over the salary cap in an uncapped year in 2011. Those sources believe that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "openly promoted the idea of collusion" by keeping player salaries down which forced NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to accept the terms for the Cowboys' and Redskins' punishments.
According to the sources, the league and the NFL were at $113 million for the salary cap instead of the $120.6 million where they are now. The NFLPA was in a position where they were going to make a lot of veteran players unhappy if they had stayed at the $113 million mark.
"If the cap had been $113 million, you would have had a lot of really unhappy veterans," a source said. "There are a lot of guys who would have been cut and salaries would have declined. It would have been a fiasco for both the players and the clubs because a lot of teams would have had to cut more players than they already did."
According to sources, the NFL agreed to the rise in the salary cap, but only if the NFLPA agreed to the punishments in which the Cowboys and Redskins would lose $46 million over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Those sources say that the NFLPA agreed to the punishment because they had little not no choice.
"Why did we agree to it?" a former player said, rhetorically. "Because the league had us over a barrel. If we didn’t agree to the penalty for the Redskins and the Cowboys, the cap would have been $113 million, the players would have been [angry] and De would have gotten fired.
"What the league is doing is collusion, plain and simple."
More NFLPA representatives believed that the punishments levied against the two teams went against the whole purpose of the uncapped year and that everything that has happened has gone against everything the two sides have worked for.
"This goes against everything that we negotiated for in [the past]" a player said, referring to the previous CBA and subsequent extensions. "The owners were supposed to live with the realities of the uncapped season. That was supposed to make them afraid to go uncapped. Now, they’re telling the big spenders, ‘You were really bad boys, we’re going to punish you.’ What the [expletive]? What kind of fear are they going to have in the future?"
According to Cole, charges of collusion have had serious consequences in the past with other leagues. He used Major League Baseball as an example as the league owners had to pay the baseball union $280 million when they settled after the union filed collusion charges in 1988.
It remains to be seen what will come from this, but the league is safe now that the new CBA is in place. However, when the two sides sit down to negotiate again, this may come back to hurt the owners. It could hurt them before too. Either way, former players who were involved in the negotiation don't like what they're seeing from the NFL.
"You have to give the deal a couple of years to see where we’re really going to be, but things don’t seem to be going well when we allow collusion," the former player said. "Now, maybe that was a one-off situation where the union gave up something to get something. That’s all part of a bigger negotiation and you understand that when it’s explained to you.
"But nobody is really getting an explanation on this stuff. You have collusion going on over here and they’re manipulating the salary cap over there. There’s a bunch of stuff going on and you don’t know if it’s good negotiating or if people trying to cover their butts. All I know is, the precedent really bothers me."