The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Something's fishy

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The recent deal for Denver Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil notwithstanding, the overriding concern among those observing league financial practices is that there is the odor of collusion when it comes to extending the contracts of the most valuable restricted free agents. First, there was the fact that when the most recent collective bargaining agreement expired, many players saw their rookie contracts extended from four or five to six seasons. This allowed teams to hold on to players in ways they wouldn't have been able to before.

While that seems good on the surface to fans who are interested in the security of their favorite teams' rosters, the problem is in the players' sudden and irrevocable inability to do much of anything relating to their own worth. These players aren't the Albert Haynesworths of the world; more players who have made honest efforts and are now put in positions where they are forced to sign one-year tenders by an expiration date or have those tender offers revert to 110 percent of their 2009 salaries.

And if they hold out too long, they find their original contracts extended. What is the incentive to give these players new contracts and pay them what they're worth? That's where the specter of owners acting in concert to prevent the value of players from going up comes in as a distinct possibility, and I believe that if the NFLPA winds up with a legitimate case of collusion to bring before a Special Master, it will be based on the way the RFA situation has been handled.

However, I do not believe that the recent unsigned status of every first-round pick, which finally ended with the signing of Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant Thursday, has anything to do with the owners acting in concert. In 2009, when the rules were different, only two first-rounders had signed by this time. I would expect to see Sam Bradford signed and in camp on time or nearly so, and the usual avalanche of players to follow. With the real threat of a lockout in 2011, and the financial landscape changing for both sides whether there is football or not in 2011, the delay in signing the most highly-regarded rookies seems more a case of caution than collusion.

By Doug Farrar  |  July 23, 2010; 7:52 AM ET  | Category:  Collective Bargaining Agreement , Doug Farrar , Draft , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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