In the rapid-moving world of NFL free agency news, the fact that the Washington Redskins were penalized $36,000,000 in cap space over the next two years almost falls into the category of “old news.” Perhaps so, but it’s old news with a lot of impact today, and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder should strongly protest the action taken the league—perhaps even consider legal action.
The topic came up last night on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, and co-hosts Michael Wilbon (not a Redskins fan) and Tony Kornheiser (a ‘Skins rooter) each agreed that the NFL had done both the Redskins, and to a lesser extent, the archrival Dallas Cowboys wrong, but implementing these cap reductions. Wilbon was unhesitant in pushing for a lawsuit, Kornheiser less so. I come down on the side for taking legal action. Here’s why:
While the NFL can protest all it wants how it warned teams that they would face penalties if they overspent in the uncapped year of 2010, what those penalties would be were left vague. So the Redskins (and I presume the Cowboys) submitted each contact signed to the league for approval. Everyone got the ok. The NFL can again protest that there was nothing wrong with the individual signings, but only the collective impact. But didn’t it occur to anyone in the NFL office to say—in writing—that yes, we approve this deal, but you’re really asking for trouble? Or to flat-out not approve the deal at all? How can a team’s signings be okay one minute, and not okay the next?
Finally we come to the timing of all this, which couldn’t be worse. It would be one thing if, immediately after the season was over, the new salary cap had been released. It would still be unfair for all the reasons outlined and the case for a lawsuit would still exist, but in my view the case and the inherit unfairness become drastically reduced. You’ve given the organization enough time to prepare. Instead, after Washington has emptied its coffers of draft picks to get the rights to select Baylor’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III—with reasonable expectation of being able to fill in other needs in free agency—the league cuts the rug out from under them, less than twenty-four hours before free agency began!!!
I know it’s easy to blame Daniel Snyder for everything—frankly, had I not watched Kornheiser and Wilbon last night, it might never have occurred to me to blame anyone else, and I generally hold Snyder accountable for all bad things with the Redskins, in the nation’s capital and in my personal life on top of it. He’s an easy target. But he’s not as wrong here as I originally thought.
It’s time for Danny to put his lawyers to work. Forget loud protesting, as Kornheiser suggested. The NFL is the professional equivalent of the Rosato Brothers in Godfather II. And to paraphrase Frank Pentangeli, “lets hit ‘em now while we got the muscle.” Get the legal boys in the Gucci suits working and hit the NFL hard.