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Shutdown Corner

Elvis Dumervil, the NFLPA, and a brief history of contract snafus

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Confused, Elvis? You're not the only one. (AP)

As you would expect, the NFL Players Association, via Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, has asked for an inquiry into the process by which former Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil was released even after he agreed to a $4 million pay cut in 2013. The cut happened because Dumervil and his agent, Marty Magid, didn't get the signed re-structure back to the Broncos before the deadline of 4:00 p.m. ET. (Darn those fax machines!) Because of that, had the Broncos not released Dumervil when they did, they would have been on the hook for the whole of Dumervil's previous base salary -- a figure of $12 million.

As it is, the release forwarded almost $5 million in dead money from the remainder of Dumervil's contract, and makes Dumervil tougher to re-sign at the agreed-upon $8 million figure. Dumervil and Magid are fielding offers from other teams in a generally depressed market for pass-rushers, and we'll see where that goes. There are those who believe that Dumervil and Magid simply screwed up a process that should have been far simpler, while others have opined that the duo intentionally obfuscated the process so that Dumervil could test the market. The latter theory doesn't make a lot of sense; the Broncos said all along that they were going to cut Dumervil if he didn't agree to a lower base salary. Most likely, it's pretty clear that everyone involved needs to move past the fax machine as an acceptable form of communication technology.

As Mike Klis of the Denver Post put it, "The Broncos did ask the league office if it would honor the verbal agreement on a restructured contract the team negotiated with Dumervil. The league rejected the request. And now Smith is going to look into the matter because with so much blame going around as to how the contract exchange was botched, it was the player who may have been most hurt."

[Related: Elvis Dumervil contract fiasco could shake up AFC power balance]

This wouldn't be the first time in the last decade that the NFLPA had to look into contract shenanigans -- in fact, there's a pretty estimable history of players and agents and teams goofing this whole contract thing up, and the union becoming involved.

Arrington's Bonus: In 2003, then-Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington signed an eight-year, $68 million contract extension that was supposed to have a $6.5 million roster bonus installed for the 2006 league year. It didn't, because the contract given to Arrington and his agent, Carl Poston, didn't have the bonus in it. Arrington signed off without noticing the error, the NFLPA suspended Poston, and according to the late Gene Upshaw, the head of the NFLPA at the time, he told Arrington about the mistake at the Super Bowl.

Arrington bought his way out of Washington D.C. after the 2005 season, and wound up testifying before Congress in 2006 regarding Poston's suspension. Surprisingly, Arrington blasted the union.

“They suspended him without a hearing, the NFLPA,” Arrington told the Associated Press. “If you are educated and you pay attention to what is going on around you, they do a lot of foul stuff. It’s like organized crime, to be honest with you. They are bad.”

Upshaw, who said that the union tried to recover the bonus after the omission was caught, said that the suspension was a strong message to all agents.

“This isn’t just about LaVar,” Upshaw said. “This is about the other players this guy represents. We have a duty to the other players.”

T.O.'s Delayed Philly Trip: Then, there's the matter of Terrell Owens, and the three-way trade that never should have happened. In 2004, Owens voided the final three years of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, believed himself a free agent, and signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, Owens' agent, David Joseph, didn't file the paperwork that voided the San Francisco contract in time, and the NFL ruled that Owens was still the property of the 49ers. Owens' first team responded to this by trading him to the Baltimore Ravens for a second-round draft pick. Joseph believed that he had until march to file the paperwork, apparently unaware of an override in the CBA that made the actual deadline Feb. 21.

[Also: Could Kevin Kolb be the New York Jets' Week 1 starter?]

Upshaw and the NFLPA contested the trade, saying that Owens had the right to void his contract, and that the tardiness of an agent shouldn't eliminate his ability to do so. In the end, the league capitulated to a point. Baltimore got their second-round pick back, the 49ers received a conditional pick and defensive end Brandon Whiting in exchange for releasing Owens' rights to the Eagles, and the Eagles got the "honor" of signing Owens to a seven-year, $49 million contract that they really, really wish they hadn't in retrospect.

As expected, Joseph was pilloried in the press.

"It's been an amazing, and a nightmare, experience," Joseph said on the day Owens was introduced as the Eagles' newest player. "All these people saying I'm an idiot, or there was a paper snafu ... When the whole world is coming down on you, telling you you've made a mistake, sometimes you start believing it."

Joseph also called the experience "a walk through the shadow of death," which seems a bit excessive.

Joey Porter, Ex-Dolphin ... Or Not: In 2010, the Miami Dolphins attempted to terminate the contract of veteran linebacker Joey Porter, who had complained about his role during the 2009 season. The Dolphins attempted to give Porter his wish in February, but could not do so because the salary cap acceleration that would have occurred with the remainder of his contract would have put the Dolphins over the cap. The $4.8 million acceleration would have put the Dolphins $600,000 over the cap, and though the league was expected to enter an uncapped year when the league year turned over in March, teams had to comply with the rules of the cap until then. So, the league determined Porter's release to be an invalid transaction.

[Also: Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith rips proposed NFL safety rule change]

Roster and salary cap guru "AdamJT13" explained the situation very well on his blog:

In the Final Capped Year, whenever a player is removed from the roster — even after June 1 — all bonus prorations from future seasons accelerate into that season. In all other seasons but the Final Capped Year, when a player is removed from the roster after June 1, the bonus prorations from future seasons accelerate into the following season. So, in other seasons, when a player is released between the Super Bowl and the start of the next league year, the acceleration hits the coming season's cap. This still is the Final Capped Year, though, so when a player is removed from a team's roster before the start of the 2010 League Year, the acceleration hits the 2009 salary cap. If the acceleration would put the team over the 2009 cap, that roster move is not allowed.

Porter was released (again) on March 5, and signed a three-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. He retired in 2012 after signing a one-day contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his first NFL team.

So, although their situations aren't exactly favorable at this time, Dumervil and Magid can be comforted to a degree by the fact that negotiations and communications can be complex, and things don't always go the way we'd like them to go.

LaVar Arrington, Terrell Owens, and Joey Porter could tell them all about that.

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