Updated: 6:40 p.m.
The Washington Redskins are strongly considering arbitration to challenge the $36 million salary cap hit imposed on them by the NFL, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
Two of those people said Monday they thought the Redskins were likely to file soon. The other said there had been discussions about the case being headed to arbitration. The Dallas Cowboys could join the Redskins in bringing the case before University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephen Burbank, the sport’s arbitrator, one person said.
The Redskins, the Cowboys and the NFL declined to comment publicly on the case.
Is the Washington Redskins salary cap case headed to arbitration?
A person with knowledge of the case said there have been discussions about using an arbitration provision of the league’s collective bargaining agreement to challenge the penalty imposed by the NFL. The league took away $36 million in cap space over two years from the Redskins, and $10 million over two years from the Dallas Cowboys, for the way they structured player contracts in 2010, when the league had no salary cap.
The Redskins and the NFL declined to comment. People familiar with the case have said the Redskins have been considering their options in response to last week’s ruling by the league.
People with knowledge of the case have said the Redskins might contest the league’s ruling, either via an appeal or a legal challenge. The Redskins have not said what, if anything, they will do, and one person familiar with the case said last week that the Cowboys were unlikely to join the Redskins in a legal challenge. Both teams have denied wrongdoing.
It is not clear, however, whether the Cowboys would join the Redskins in a proceeding before an arbitrator, which might generate less animosity among other team owners than a full-scale court challenge.
The sport’s labor agreement says that any club may bring a proceeding before the sport’s “system arbitrator” alleging a violation of those articles of the labor deal that governs the salary cap. Such a proceeding also could be initiated by the league, a player or the NFL Players Association.
Under the labor deal, the burden of proof would be on the team that initiaties the complaint. The arbitrator can award damages or provide injunctive relief, and his decision can be appealed to an appeals panel.
One person with knowledge of the case said it could end up before Stephen Burbank, the University of Pennsylvania law professor who was known as the sport’s special master when previous labor agreements were under the jurisdiction of a federal court in Minneapolis.
According to people familiar with the case, the Redskins technically violated no salary cap rules. But the league concluded that the team structured contracts during the uncapped year in 2010 to gain an unfair competitive advantage when the salary cap returned in later years. The Redskins paid millions of dollars to players during the year without a salary cap that otherwise would have been paid in seasons with a salary cap to give themselves extra cap space when the cap went back into effect.
The Redskins must absorb at least half the $36 million salary cap hit this season, people familiar with the case have said.
The players’ union reluctantly agreed to the salary cap reductions given to the Redskins and Cowboys, a person familiar with the union’s thinking on the matter said last week.