As if the contract dispute between the Dallas Cowboys and wide receiver Dez Bryant is not complicated enough, a new twist has come into play and there could be negative consequences for the Cowboys. The NFL Players Association has announced that it is filing charges with the NFL accusing the Cowboys of colluding with the Denver Broncos in regards to contract negotiations with players under the franchise tag.
Both teams are in the same situation with their star wide receiver. Just as the Cowboys used the franchise tag on Bryant, the Broncos have used the franchise tag on their star wide receive Demaryius Thomas.
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Neither Bryant or Thomas is happy about playing the 2015 season on a one-year contract and both have threatened to hold out of training camp and regular season games unless they receive a long-term contract. Now, the Players Association believes it can prove that the Cowboys and Broncos have had conversations concerning the contract negotiations, which is a violation of NFL rules.
Collusion is the process of two organizations discussing contract negotiations each is having with players. The reason this action is not permitted is because the Players Association does not want organizations to make secret agreements in which they establish a mutual contract value that they will not exceed.
If Thomas were to receive a deal from Denver in the neighborhood of $16 million per year for five years, Bryant would be able to use that as leverage in his negotiations with Dallas. Therefore, if both teams agree to stay below $13 million per year, neither Thomas nor Bryant has any leverage.
The deadline for both teams to sign their respective player to a long-term deal is today at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. According to FoxSports.com’s Peter Schrager, the NFLPA is telling both teams to keep records of all communication between the two organizations. Link
"Schrager writes, “Sources tell FOX Sports that it’d go as far back as Bryant and Thomas’ names being brought up in conversation between the two teams in any form of electronic communication. Something as simple as a text message between Broncos and Cowboys officials in regards to Bryant and Thomas at an Owners Meetings two years ago could be enough to make this into a credible case.”"
If either organization fails to sign their respective wide receiver by today’s deadline, the Players Association is almost guaranteed to proceed with the charges of collusion. The Players Association is not under the guidance of the NFL but is a labor union to protect the best interest of the league’s players.
Thus, some cynics suggest that the NFLPA is making this announcement so close to the deadline as a negotiation tactic intended to scare both teams into signing the players. However, Schrager reports that the Players Association will proceed with these charges regardless of whether or not either player signs before the deadline.
If the NFL were to find that the teams have colluded, there are two courses of action that the league might take.
"According to Schrager, “If the Cowboys and Broncos were to be found guilty of collusion…one of two things could happen. First, both Bryant and Thomas’ contracts could be immediately voided, making the players unrestricted free agents and able to sign anywhere. Second, it could lead to a situation in which both players are awarded damages that are calculated as the lost value of a long-term deal due to the collusive conduct…”However, Charean Williams of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram reports, “A Cowboys source said there is ‘nothing to it.’” Link"
Yet, there are unconfirmed reports that the Cowboys have gone so far as to inform Bryant that they have spoken to the Broncos.
"Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer, reports at ESPNDallas.com, “According to a source, Cowboys executive vice president/COO Stephen Jones told Bryant during a recent conversation that he’d had a conversation with Broncos GM John Elway about the negotiations, which the union believes would constitute a violation of the CBA’s anti-collusion rules.” Link"
Since 2010 when Bryant and Thomas entered the NFL, the two players have put up strikingly similar numbers. Bryant has caught 381 receptions for 5,424 yards while Thomas has 351 receptions for 5,317 yards; the only significant difference between the two players is Bryant’s 56 touchdown receptions against Thomas’ 41.
After today’s deadline passes, teams and players under the franchise tag cannot negotiate new deals until the 2016 free agency period begins. Regardless of the outcome, today will be the next step in a fascinating journey that has been leading up to and will possibly extend through training camp and the regular season.