I hate to say it, but this whole conspiracy theory the NFL Players Association brought up about the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos being in collusion to distort the wide receiver market seems to be getting traction.
Shortly after the star Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant inked a long-term deal for $70 mil, a nearly identical contract was signed by Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The only difference between the two deals lies in the guaranteed money: $45 mil for Dez Bryant and $43.5 mil for Demaryius Thomas.
There’s good reason to think that the Cowboys and Broncos would like to be in cahoots with one another as they try to issue long-term deals to their top receivers. The market has been skewed in this area since Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald re-upped with their respective teams. Almost lost in the whole argument was that Fitzgerald’s deal has already been changed, which actually makes a real difference in the current situation.
There are reports that Jerry Jones told Dez Bryant he had been in contact with Broncos GM John Elway regarding the contract negotiations, and that’s what got all of this started.
But we can’t lose our heads over this. The fact that the teams worked out such similar deals does seem to support the theory that the teams conspired together in violation of terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and players union.
Deals for top athletes are often shaped by recent market trends established by other teams, so two teams in similar situations communicating about contract figures aren’t far-fetched, but can easily lead to contract deflations. After all, who wants to spend $80 mil when you can get away with just paying $70 mil because that’s all the other team is going to pay?
If a good theory with circumstantial yet reasonable evidence was the proverbial nail in the coffin, I’d be worried.
The NFLPA, in order to prove collusion, must have absolute proof, and they simply don’t have it. As a result, they have asked both teams to preserve all records of communication between them with the threat that they will move forward with charges should either player, or both, not sign a deal by the July 15th deadline.
That’s a massive burden. They’d need phone logs, recordings, emails, memos, text messages, or something similar to take meaningful action against Denver and Dallas. The fact that they released statements about their concerns and followed up with a “Get it done, or else” is not an indictment.
Anything can happen over the coming days and weeks. If solid, actionable evidence is discovered, the two teams could face fines, loss of draft pick(s), or even salary cap reductions, and that’s not even getting into legal recourse that may be available for the players involved.
It’s serious stuff, but it’s something that happens, though.
Teams sometimes conspire. Teams also agree on market values sometimes, too. It’s a fairly well-controlled market with variables that any front office can figure out on their own.
The bottom line for fans reading ESPN headlines condemning both teams is that both players have signed long-term deals ahead of the deadline, so it’s time for this story to die. I’m not sure why I felt the need to expound… perhaps due to an influx in trashy headlines in my news feeds, I don’t know. But do with it what you will.
Just don’t start setting fires before there’s something to burn.