The Washington Redskins and linebacker LaVar Arrington have failed to resolve a $6.5 million contract dispute, forcing the matter to an arbitration hearing early next month, according to two sources with knowledge of the proceedings.
The impasse came despite the urging of Coach Joe Gibbs and efforts by Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, to settle the matter before training camp. The sides became resigned in recent days to go to arbitration, with a hearing originally scheduled for Sept. 21. However, both sides pushed for an earlier date so that the matter is addressed before Washington's season opener, Sept. 12 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field.
"We've always maintained that we'd like to get this settled as soon as possible," Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said yesterday. "Because there's no reason to have these things linger longer than necessary."
Arrington filed the non-injury grievance in March. The player believes the Redskins omitted a $6.5 million roster bonus that was agreed upon in an eight-year, $68 million extension signed last December.
The deal, negotiated by agent Carl Poston and Redskins salary cap specialist Eric Schaffer, was made primarily to provide the Redskins salary-cap relief to pursue free agents this offseason. Arrington has said that his agent didn't have an opportunity to thoroughly examine the contract because of deadline pressure.
Gibbs, also the team president, wanted a resolution so that the matter doesn't become a distraction during the regular season, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. "Gibbs just wants it to go away before the season," said the source, "one way or another."
Gibbs and Arrington first discussed the matter in March. In late May, Upshaw held an extensive meeting with owner Daniel Snyder and Arrington at Redskins Park in an attempt to reach a resolution. According to a person with intimate knowledge of the meeting, Snyder told Arrington that he wanted the linebacker to be happy entering the season, yet added that salary-cap rules prevented him from altering the contract. The meeting ended with Snyder asking for more information from Arrington's side, according to the source.
Swanson declined to comment about the meeting. "It was a private meeting," Swanson said.
Arrington could not be reached for comment. Poston, did not return phone calls yesterday.
Snyder has wanted to reach a settlement, according to two sources, but is concerned about public perception that the team tried to deceive the linebacker.
In the days leading to Gibbs's first minicamp in March, Arrington went public with his displeasure with the Redskins' front office. He expressed ambivalence about finishing his career with the Redskins.
During the minicamp, however, Arrington struck a conciliatory tone toward the organization while hoping for a settlement.
Although Arrington filed the grievance as an individual, the NFLPA is assisting the linebacker.
The hearing is expected to be contentious because of its accusatory nature, including cross examinations and the presentation of supporting information. Because of the signed contract, Arrington faces a high standard of proof to show fraud by the Redskins.
Arrington's side is expected to attempt to at least show that a mistake occurred, if not an effort to prove deception by the team. According to a source close to Arrington, the linebacker intends to have an NFL general manager testify on his behalf and make Schaffer's past dealings an issue.
"We've said before that LaVar's agent has to explain this to him," Swanson said. "It's his agent who signed the contract. What's the deception in a drafted and signed contract?"
Redskins Note: Safety Sean Taylor left the mandatory four-day rookie symposium, held from June 27 to June 30 in San Diego, after one day, apparently because of a personal matter. According to a source, Taylor had told the Redskins that he needed to return to Miami to clear out his apartment before getting evicted.
Taylor, the No. 5 overall pick who hasn't yet officially picked an agent, was instructed to return by the league for the final two days.