We are one week away from the arbitration hearing concerning the Redskins’ and Cowboys’ salary cap penalties. Albert Breer of NFL.com reported why some around the league in addition to the Giants’ John Mara (who was born naked into the world and had to inherit everything he has) are upset with the fact that the two teams treated the uncapped year like, well, an uncapped year.
The anger at the two penalized teams apparently stems from the fact that franchise tag salaries are based on the average of the top five salaries and bonuses at the position. The large bonus payments the Redskins and Cowboys paid to certain members of their respective teams had an inflationary effect on the franchise player salaries.
The payment of a large salary to wide receiver Miles Austin in the first year of his redone deal apparently upset the Chargers organization. Austin’s big salary pushed up the franchise tag for the wide receiver position from what would have been about $9.5 million to about $11.3 million. That made it more difficult for San Diego to franchise tag Vincent Jackson in 2011 and, because a player who is franchised for a second straight year gets 120 percent of his previous year’s salary.
The Redskins’ $21 million payment to Albert Haynesworth caused the franchise tag at defensive tackle to jump from around $7 million to $12.5 million. That cost the Ravens extra money when they tagged Haloti Ngata and the Dolphins had to shell out more to franchise nose tackle Paul Soliai.
Perhaps some teams do have a right to be upset. However, their anger is misdirected.
The uncapped year, which has been built in to the last year of every CBA since the advent of the salary cap in the early 1990’s, is among the provisions in the last year of the CBA that are supposed to incentivize the two sides to never enter the last year of the CBA.
The lack of both a salary cap and floor, the extension of experience needed to become an unrestricted free agent from four to six years, and other clauses were supposed to push the two sides to the table to get a new deal hammered out.
But the owners of the Chargers, Ravens, and Dolphins, along with every other NFL owner, voted to opt out of the CBA negotiated in 2006 early. And then months and months passed and they didn’t even sit down for a serious negotiating session with the players. The lockout took effect soon after the CBA expired.
The owners wanted the lockout. They therefore knew that they would have to accept the uncapped and unfloored year and the consequences, including a potential increase in franchise tags salaries, that could result.
So they got their lockout. They got what seems to be a fairly favorable settlement with what is projected to be a four-year run with a flat salary cap. They want these gains without needing to drop a few million here and a few million there due to increases in the franchise tag that should have been fully expected following an uncapped year.
In short, they got the upside of opting out of the CBA early, playing hardball, letting the CBA expire, and locking the players out. They had to deal with some of the inevitable downside to that strategy and they are upset about it.
Nobody really knows what criteria arbitrator Stephen Burbank will use to arrive at his decision but it should be based on the letter of the law in the CBA. A few million dollars on franchise tags here and there should not be a factor.