New York Giants owner and CEO John Mara arrives at...

New York Giants owner and CEO John Mara arrives at the Washington offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for contract negotiations with the NFL Players Association. (March 10, 2011) Credit: AP

Palm Beach, Fla. – The Redskins and Cowboys have filed for arbitration in an effort to have severe salary cap sanctions lifted after the teams were penalized by the league for dumping several expensive contracts into the 2010 season, a year that did not include a salary cap. 

The case will be heard by independent arbitrator Prof. Stephen Burbank in Philadelphia. A date has not been set for the hearing. 

The teams contend that the NFL acted improperly by removing salary cap money earlier this month. The Redskins were hit with a $38 million salary cap penalty, while the Cowboys were docked $10 million, thereby limiting the teams’ ability to sign free agents. 

Spokesmen for both teams declined immediate comment on the case. NFL vice president of communications Greg Aiello called the proceeding a “system arbitration case,” citing Article 15 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Aiello said the teams are challenging the salary cap adjustment agreed to by the NFL Players Association.

The NFLPA agreed to have the salary cap money displaced by the sanctions against Washington and Dallas be shared equally by the other teams. The Saints and Raiders were also found to have dumped contracts into the uncapped season, but did not have salary cap money removed. The salary cap for them remains at $120.6 million, while the 28 other clubs shared the monies forfeited by Dallas and Washington. 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told The Dallas Morning News on Friday the Cowboys and Redskins would challenge the salary-cap reductions.

Giants owner John Mara, chairman of the NFL Management Committee that imposed the penalties on the Redskins and Cowboys, said he felt the penalties were appropriate.

“What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap. They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite frankly, I think they're lucky they didn't lose draft picks.”

Asked why it would be considered a loophole if there was no salary cap, Mara said the issue “came up several times in our meetings,” and that there was an agreement not dump salaries into the uncapped year to save against the cap in future seasons and create a competitive advantage.

“We all knew the cap would come back," Mara said. "We were not going to enter into any agreement with the NFLPA if there was not a salary cap in it." 

Asked if the NFL’s actions amounted to collusion, Mara said that was not the case.

“This has nothing to do with collusion," he said. "It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences. There was nothing wrong with the individual contracts, but when you look at the overall scope of what they did, they were trying to take advantage and they were told not to." 

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