NFL union leader DeMaurice Smith is asking NFL player agents to report any hint of suspected collusion among teams to keep salaries down during free agency, according to a memo from the NFLPA's executive director.
Numerous agents have privately complained about the slow pace of signings for veteran free agent players and the associated low salaries for those players. Only one player, Miami wide receiver Mike Wallace, has received a contract in excess of $10 million per year as a free agent.
Furthermore, many free agent players have signed one-year deals in hopes of hitting free agency again next season because the market has been so poor. That has led agents to suggest that collusion has occurred among teams.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello dismissed the notion.
"Player signings in 2013 have been characterized by robust spending and intense competition. Anyone seeing collusion in this market is seeing ghosts," Aiello said via email.
To support his claims, Smith said the union would work to provide the most up-to-the-minute information for agents as players look for jobs.
"As you know, we are well into free agency and in the effort to provide players and contract advisors with the most accurate and updated information, we want to remind you that every agent has access to the team cap figures on the password-protected portion of www.nflplayers.com," Smith wrote in the memo.
"In the effort to increase the information available and to provide timely team salary cap information, we will post the most recent figures, as per our calculations, daily at 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. eastern on http://nflplayers.com/cap.
"We have heard anecdotally that some teams are inaccurately reporting that they are facing salary-cap restrictions on resigning veteran players. While this is a common allegation and teams are free to make their own determinations on signing players, we provide this information to aid you in accurately evaluating each team's actual salary cap room.
"Finally, we have heard reports of a concern that teams are working in concert to 'peg,' 'rig' or 'set' market prices on player contracts. If you believe or have information that the teams have been colluding during this free agency period, you have a responsibility as an agent of the NFLPA to come forward and share that information with us."
Claims of collusion could be extremely serious, although the NFL has skirted such potential issues recently. In 2011, when the league was supposed to be in an "uncapped" year for the collective-bargaining agreement, teams set an artificial spending limit of $120 million in salary cap accounting. Washington and Dallas were subsequently punished for exceeding the cap on spending as the league claimed they changed the way certain money was accounted for.
In 2012, the NFLPA signed off on those penalties against Washington and Dallas so that the salary cap could be $120 million that season. The cap was increased to $123 million in 2013.
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