Punishing Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder could come back to haunt owners
In response to the Eighth Circuit Court partially overturning a previous decision by Judge David Doty to dismiss the NFL Players Association's claim of collusion amongst owners in 2010, the NFL basically played the nothing-to-see-here card by claiming Friday's development was merely procedural.
The subtext of the NFLPA's statement was much different because they believe they're a big step closer to putting two prominent owners in a very interesting spot.
The Washington Redskins' Dan Snyder and the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones were very upset with the salary-cap penalties they received in 2012 after it was deemed they violated the spirit of an NFLPA-alleged secret cap that didn't explicitly exist.
They were docked a combined $46 million in salary-cap space (which was redistributed to every other team except the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints, who were also accused of cap violations) because they dumped dead money into the uncapped season instead of spreading it out over several years the way teams normally would in a capped environment. It was, per the NFL, "an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance."
The Cowboys and Redskins gritted their teeth and only mildly showed their displeasure via public statements, such as the one from the Cowboys that merely said they were "in compliance" with the rules of the uncapped year.
But Snyder's outburst in the locker room following a victory over the New York Giants in December 2012 — "I hate those (expletives)," he said, according a USA Today report, as well as quotes from Giants co-owner John Mara stating the Redskins were "lucky they didn't lose draft picks" that were posted in the Redskins' facility the week leading up to that 2012 game —revealed the real vitriol behind the scene. Snyder obviously believes Mara was a driving force in levying the cap penalties against his division rivals.
Which brings us back to Friday's ruling, which could open the door for discovery to proceed.
Surely the NFLPA would love the chance to question Jones and Snyder about their thoughts on whether there was collusion in 2010. And considering they believed then that they complied with the rules of the uncapped season, the union is certainly licking its chops at the thought of honest testimony from two prideful men who might take a swipe back at all those they feel were responsible for the penalties they incurred.
"Through discovery and a hearing," Friday's statement from the NFLPA read, "we can understand how collusion took place."
But what makes the case so interesting is that it's being brought against the entire league, not just the 30 teams who went unpunished. That means any potential penalties would come out of Snyder's and Jones' pockets. So any evidence the owners would present to help the union's case would also serve to hurt themselves.
If Snyder is smart, he could use any leverage of what he might say in testimony to garner support for his fight to keep the Redskins team name. Right now, owners are deferring to him and not commenting publicly at all. And who knows what's happening behind the scenes?
It's a tricky situation in which the power of the dollar would square off against the temptation for revenge. It also might never happen, as the NFL will continue to fight in this case. The league said in its statement it remains "highly confident the claim will be dismissed yet again."
But if it's not, and the process goes forward to the point of testimony, it could get very interesting for Snyder and Jones.