In a case of very strange bedfellows, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins are reported by NBC to have joined together in filing a grievance under the new CBA over the $46 million in salary cap penalties imposed on the teams earlier this month.
The teams have not filed a lawsuit, but instead are using the provisions of the new CBA to try and deal with the situation without having to get into the larger implications that would come out in open court.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the Cowboys and Redskins have filed a formal grievance against the NFL, the NFL Management Council, and the NFL Players Association challenging the agreement to remove and redistribute cap space allocated to the Cowboys and Redskins in exchange for increasing the total salary cap for 2012 to $120.6 million per team.
More on how the teams are fighting back after the jump.
Actual details about the grievance will probably not be known until the other 30 teams are briefed on it at the league meetings in Florida later this week. Even then, there may be some details that are not fully released. However, the report on this has some plausible information on what is likely being done.
It's currently believed that the grievance focuses on procedural defects, such as the failure to put the measure to a vote of league ownership or NFLPA leadership, without articulating the hot-button underlying argument that the Cowboys and Redskins are being punished for refusing to engage in illegal collusion in the year before the lockout began.
The notable thing that this approach allows the Cowboys and Redskins a way to recoup the salary cap money that was stripped from them without putting the CBA at risk of a legal challenge that could upset the entire deal. Even more importantly, through this approach the teams have taken this out of the hands of Roger Goodell.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the grievance will be processed pursuant to Article 43 of the CBA, with a neutral arbitrator resolving the case. The arbitrator's ruling will be final, at least as to the arguments raised in the grievance.
The fact that the Cowboys and Redskins included the union in the grievance triggered the procedure that allows the teams to avoid a situation in which Commissioner Goodell resolves the matter. Instead, a true outsider will determine whether the action complied with the terms and/or the spirit of the labor deal.
This is a brilliant bit of legal maneuvering. By getting this matter before an impartial party who will look at the actual facts of the situation, such as the league approval of the contracts that the teams were subsequently penalized for, the teams would seem to have an excellent chance of getting the penalties revoked, since almost all analysis of the situation has seen no legitimate justification for Goodell's actions. And now that the salary cap has been set for 2012, it would also appear that the other owners would have little choice except to shut up and swallow having to spend a little more money. And Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder still have the option of filing a lawsuit over the issue of illegal collusion in the chance that this does not work.
I would be rather surprised if it comes to that. An arbiter would almost certainly find at least one part of the penalty that would not pass muster and overturn this. All that will happen is that Goodell and the other owners will look like idiots, and will perhaps learn the lesson that the big dogs are the big dogs for a very good reason.