Cowboys’ appeal would help Redskins more

The Cowboys might want to rethink appealing the salary cap penalty they were handed out a few weeks ago. They may end up helping their enemies more than themselves.

The Cowboys were hit with a $10 million cap penalty by the NFL for playing with the numbers on Miles Austin’s new contract during the allegedly “uncapped” year of 2010. They’ve filed a grievance, which will be heard by an arbitrator.

The penalty has been split over two seasons to soften the blow. So basically the Cowboys can spend $5 million less than other clubs each of the next two seasons.

But hold on. The Washington Redskins, the Cowboys’ NFC East rivals, were hit even harder for finagling with salaries during the one-year loophole. The Redskins, who are also part of the grievance against the league, will have $36 million less to spend over the next two years.

The Cowboys got a slap on the wrist compared to the Redskins. Not having that $5 million amounts to a mid-level free agent. We’re talking Orlando Scandrick money. Austin’s contract – 7 years for $57 million and change – equates to more than $8 million a year.

Compare that to the Redskins having to make do without $18 million each of the next two years. Now we’re talking serious money.

The Redskins are poised to draft Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick. How are they going to surround him with the talent he needs to succeed with a severe cap cut?

The Cowboys can sustain a $5 million cap hit and still compete for quality free agents like Brandon Carr. The Redskins will have serious problems improving their roster the next two seasons.

If the Cowboys and Redskins succeed in having their penalties reduced or even negated, that helps the Redskins a heck of a lot more than the Cowboys.

There’s a lot of evidence that weighs heavily in the Cowboys and Redskins’ favor. Although both teams were warned several times not to flaunt the uncapped year, created by the impasse with the players’ association, there was no hard and fast rule against it.

If the NFL had made it a rule to follow salary cap guidelines when there was no salary cap, that’s collusion. It also would give the NFLPA more ammunition in its fight with the league.

The collusion issue is probably why the league approved the contracts the Cowboys and Redskins submitted in 2010, even though they were out of line with what had been the previous guideline.

Austin’s contract was way out of whack. He was paid $17 million in 2010, the uncapped year. When the cap was reinstated in 2011, he was paid a mere $685,000 in base salary.

Plain and simple, the Cowboys were stashing salary in the uncapped year. The NFL’s defense is that the Cowboys and Redskins knew there would be a salary cap after 2010, so to flaunt the one-year loophole gave them a competitive advantage.

The arguments are for the arbitrator to decide. One thing that is for sure: Without some relief, the Redskins will be salary handicapped the next two seasons.

If you’re the Cowboys, wouldn’t that be worth taking a much smaller hit?

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire