Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Possible Collusion and the 85 Percent Rule: Are NFL Teams trading and cutting rookies to avoid paying into collectively-bargained pool?

The National Football League Players' Association is reportedly looking into whether teams are trading rookie players who would be cut in order to avoid cutting them themselves and having to pay 85% of the player's salary. If they are doing that, they could be deemed to be colluding, which generally means two or more teams acting in a way to deprive players of collectively-bargained rights. The NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement contains anti-collusive language under Article XXVIII. Here's more on the allegation:

In a pair trades on Monday, Washington sent 6th round draft pick tight end Dennis Morris to St. Louis for a conditional pick and the Rams sent 5th round pick defensive end Hall Davis to the Redskins for a conditional pick. On the same day, Philadelphia traded 6th round pick running back Charles Scott to Arizona for 6th round pick cornerback Jorrick Calvin.

Under collective bargaining rules, if a player is cut by the team that drafted him, that team is required to pay 85 percent of that player's salary into a pool that is distributed at the end of the season.

The Redskins have already cut Davis.

For more, see this excellent explanation by Sean Fagan of SB Nation:

The Washington Redskins may have gotten up to some hijinks with their trade involving recently-cut defensive lineman Hall Davis and a prior trade involving tight end Dennis Morris. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, both the Redskins and the St. Louis Rams are under investigation by the NFLPA for attempting to circumvent the little-known "85 percent" rule.

In layman's terms - any rookie that is drafted by an NFL team is owed 85 percent of his salary if subsequently cut by the team which drafted him. By trading Davis to the Redskins, and having him cut by Washington rather than St. Louis, the Rams save $272,00. Further, the Redskins will save the same $272,000 dollars owed to Morris, who was traded to the Rams earlier in the week and is also expected to be cut.

Might this be collusion by NFL teams to avoid paying salaries -- and salaries of obscure rookie players who when cut attract minimal media attention and who individually may not have much influence on the Players' Association? Or is it just a case of a bunch of late round picks -- whose chances for making any team are likely low -- simply not being good enough to make an NFL team?