Update: 3:37: Redskins officials have told people in the league that they are considering going to court to seek an injunction that would hold up the start of free agency or threatening that move in a bid to bolster their negotiating leverage with the league. Those conversations were confirmed by two people with knowledge of them.
Both said that the Redskins have compelling arguments they could make in an attempt to convince a judge that they would suffer irreparable harm if they are not granted an injunction. But others familiar with the case have said they don’t believe the Redskins have legal arguments that weren’t already considered, and rejected, by an arbitrator.
Through a spokesman, the Redskins declined to comment. Separately, the NFL also declined to comment.
The Redskins have put contract negotiations with some of their players on hold, telling agents and players they remain hopeful they can recoup some of the salary cap space that was cut by the NFL last year, according to several people familiar with the situation.
Redskins officials have told those agents and players that they cannot negotiate in earnest until the salary cap matter is resolved. The players include some eligible for free agency in March and others who face the possibility of release unless their contracts are reworked, those people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team does not want such issues discussed publicly.
The team has told parties involved that it hopes to reach a resolution by late this week.
The NFL’s free agent market is scheduled to open March 12. That is also when teams must be in compliance with the salary cap, which is estimated to be $121 million to $122 million per club for the 2013 season.
The Redskins would have considerably less to spend if the salary cap cut remains in place, as several people familiar with the situation continue to expect. In 2013, the Redskins are scheduled to absorb the remaining $18 million of a $36 million reduction over two years that was imposed on them by the league, with the consent of the NFL Players Association, last March. The cut is a penalty for the way the team structured some player contracts in 2010, when there was no salary cap.
The Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, who lost $10 million in cap space over two years, challenged the penalties in arbitration last year but their case was dismissed. A federal judge has twice rejected a collusion complaint by the the players’ union that accuses the NFL and teams of operating with a secret salary cap in the uncapped year.
The Redskins apparently haven’t given up contesting the penalty.
“They have a plan,” one person familiar with the team’s thinking said Monday, expressing the opinion that the Redskins “have very good arguments” for restoring their cap space. The person did not say, however, how the team plans to challenge the penalty.
Coach Mike Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen have said publicly since the end of the 2012 season that the team is not done challenging the salary cap reduction. But neither has provided details on how the team might do that.
One person with knowledge of the case said last week that any remaining appeal by the Redskins might be “informal.”
In the meantime, players and agents are waiting to see what will happen and are pressing the team for answers. One person said players are becoming anxious, but the team continues to tell agents it needs more time to pursue the salary cap case. Players and their agents are skeptical of the Redskins’ ability to win back cap space because of the team’s and union’s previous legal setbacks.
According to some estimates, the Redskins are about $4 million above the salary cap. They would need to release players or rework contracts, or both, to get under the cap. A Redskins player said his agent has been told by another NFL team that it expects the Redskins to release numerous players to get under the cap, but it is difficult to determine how accurate that prediction is.
One player likely to discuss restructuring his contract appears to be cornerback DeAngelo Hall. His current deal would count $8 million against next season’s cap and he could be released if the two sides cannot agree to a reworked deal. But a renegotiation might not be necessary if the Redskins manage to get salary cap space restored. Hall said at the end of the recently completed season that he would be willing to discuss a reworked deal to remain with the team.
Veteran wide receiver Santana Moss also could be a candidate for a contract restructuring. Moss’s current contract would count $6.1 million against the cap.
Players eligible for unrestricted free agency in March include tight end Fred Davis, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, right tackle Tyler Polumbus and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, a Pro Bowl selection on special teams. The Redskins’ pending restricted free agents include tight end Logan Paulsen, fullback Darrel Young and linebacker Rob Jackson.
Last year, the Redskins added free agents Brandon Meriweather, a safety, and wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, even as they absorbed the first half of the salary cap reduction, and won the NFC East title in 2012. Team officials have suggested their offseason plans last year were changed by the cap penalty.
Several people familiar with the case have said they believe it’s highly unlikely that the team can succeed in having salary cap space restored.
The league ruled that the Redskins and Cowboys sought to gain an improper competitive advantage by loading extra salary into the uncapped year. The teams denied wrongdoing. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled last year that the teams could not bring a case because the league and union agreed to the cap reductions, which amounted to a rightful amendment of the CBA. U.S. District Court Judge David Doty has ruled twice that the union waived its right to bring a collusion complaint against the league and teams.