After controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson signed a fully guaranteed contract during the NFL offseason, many team owners weren’t happy.
Some owners may have believed that the Watson deal would set a precedent and that quarterbacks with expiring contracts would seek similar terms during their contract negotiations.
Now, the NFLPA has filed a complaint alleging that owners across the league colluded to prevent teams from getting fully guaranteed contracts, according to a report by The Athletic.
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A third party arbitrator is expected to hear the union’s complaint.
The Athletic’s report also reveals that NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash sent a memo to teams on October 20. The memo is believed to have informed the NFL team of the players association’s claim that teams have agreed to lock in fully guaranteed contracts for some quarterbacks. in light of the Watson deal.
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The Browns acquired Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans in exchange for first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024, as well as a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick.
Following the trade, Watson signed a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract. The deal set a record for the highest guaranteed money awarded to an NFL player.
The NFLPA argued, according to the Pash memo report, that the owners reached an agreement not to offer large-scale, fully guaranteed deals in the future.
It is important to note that the current collective bargaining agreement does not require the NFL team to offer a fully guaranteed contract during negotiations with the players.
ESPN reported that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s ongoing negotiation was mentioned before the claim.
Jackson has yet to sign an extension and will become a free agent after the season. Adam Schefter reported in September that Jackson turned down a deal with Baltimore worth approximately $250 million in pursuit of a fully guaranteed contract.
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Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson were among the quarterbacks who signed extensions before the start of the regular season, which were more in line with traditional NFL deals.
In March, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti didn’t mince words when he discussed the Watson deal at NFL owners’ meetings.
“I’m trying to answer that when I had a reaction. And it’s like, ‘Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract,'” Bisciotti said. “I don’t know if I should have been the first to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s kind of groundbreaking and it will make negotiations with others more difficult. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play that game, you know? We’ll see. Yeah If you were in bogged down negotiations with Lamar, then maybe you’d have a quicker reaction to that news.”
Many player contracts have certain guarantees built into them, but a fully guaranteed contract is far from the league’s norm.
Under NFL rules, a team must pay off the majority of a guaranteed contract within the first year of the deal. But, the players association wants to know if the teams are operating independently when it comes to refusing to offer a guaranteed contract.
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An NFL spokesman declined to comment and the union did not provide immediate comment. The evidence the NFLPA has to support this argument is unknown.