The Redskins and Cowboys, unusual allies, lost their fight to recoup a combined $46 million of cap space when arbitrator Stephen Burbank dismissed their grievance against the NFL it was announced Tuesday at the owners meetings in Atlanta by NFL executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash.
The Redskins and Cowboys issued a joint statement Tuesday afternoon that closes the matter: "We pursued our salary cap claim pursuant to the CBA and we respect and will abide by the arbitrator's decision to dismiss. We will contiue to focus on our football teams and the 2012 season."
The NFL stripped the Redskins of $36 million in cap space for what they viewed as a violation of an unwritten agreement over how to use the uncapped year of 2010. The league also penalized Dallas $10 million. Several league sources said teams were warned multiple times not to do what these teams did and structure contracts to take advantage of the uncapped year. The sources also said teams were told there would be consequences.
One source, who was in the room when warnings were given, said the league was “emphatic” about how it wanted contracts structured.
"They grossly violated it and everyone was upset when they found out what they did," said the NFL source shortly after the cap violations were noted on March 12. “This is something Al Davis would have done.”
Both teams were accused of creating future cap space by dumping money into 2010. The Redskins reportedly structured a $21 million bonus to Albert Haynesworth and a $15 million bonus for DeAngelo Hall so it would all count in 2010. By placing more money into 2010, it created an imbalance according to the NFL. Here's a look at why they argued that, according to NFL.com. The story focuses on the increased salary cap numbers and how it impacted other teams.
The Redskins argued that there was no written agreement about not doing this and that the NFL approved the contracts. Perhaps what mattered most in the end is that the NFL Players' Association signed off on the penalty. Multiple league sources they did so because the NFL would not set the salary cap for 2012 until they agreed to do this, or face a decreased salary cap. The NFL said it would then spread the $46 million equally among 28 other teams (with New Orleans and Oakland excluded for similar violations, though not as serious).
The Redskins lost $18 million in cap space this season and next. Though they have not said how they would have spent the money, there's little doubt they would have been more aggressive. They could not pursue several big-time free agent defensive players -- corner Cortland Finnegan for example -- because they lacked the cap space.