According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL Players Association is investigating whether or not the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos have colluded on the contract extensions for wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. Both players are currently under the franchise tag and are looking for long term security.
The NFLPA believes that Dallas and Denver have had contact about the receivers potential contracts, which could limit the player's negotiation power for an extension. Such contact is against the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Both the Cowboys and the Broncos have a "prior record" of penalties for their management of the salary cap, which should "merit strong consideration in assessing discipline" (to use the language of Troy Vincent the NFL).
The Cowboys were penalized for dumping salaries during the "uncapped" 2010 season, and ironically the NFLPA sued the NFL for collusion with a shadow 2010 salary cap. The Broncos had been penalized for circumventing the salary cap and deferring payments to build a stadium during their Super Bowl years in the 90s.
Teams have until Wednesday to come to terms with an extension for players under the franchise tag, or they will be unable to negotiate until after the 2015 season.
Bryant is represented by Tom Condon of Creative Artists Agency (CAA). According to Sports Business Daily on July 10th, CAA is in the middle of acquiring Five Star Athlete Management, which represents Thomas and would bring both receivers under the same agency representation. Schefter noted the NFLPA investigation on July 11th, so it's possible the notion of collusion surfaced during the due diligence period of the acquisition.
Of wide receivers under long term contracts, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is the league's highest paid receiver under a 7-year, $113.45 million contract, which averages $16.2 million a year. Vikings receiver Mike Wallace is under a 5-year, $60 million deal, the second highest average value for a receiver.
Thomas "wants Calvin Johnson money" and Dez wants the exact same thing. Offering a receiver that much money would not only cripple the team's salary cap, but force teams to come to renegotiation terms on an annual basis.
The list of $100 million non-quarterbacks is fairly short. Defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth, and receivers Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh have recently signed long term $100 million deals, too. The Haynesworth contract was a major bust. Johnson, Fitzgerald, and Watt have all restructured their contracts in order to adjust their cap hits. Suh's contract was built $28.6 million cap hit in 2016, so that will likely require a renegotiation as well.
Is Dez the type of player to potentially take offense to a renegotiation request, like former Patriots guard Logan Mankins? Bryant says the contract is about "respect", which is similar to Mankins' approach.
Regardless of contractual impact, it's against the rules for teams to collude against the players. If the Cowboys and Broncos are found guilty, there should be serious repercussions for repeat offenders- and we're not talking about a $100,000 laugher of a penalty that Jets owner Woody Johnson received for habitually tampering with players under contract with other teams.