7:15pm: Suspicions in the matter stew from both the Cowboys and the Broncos refusing to use Calvin Johnson‘s contract with the Lions as a comparable during negotiations with Bryant and Thomas, respectively, a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. That seems a little odd, as the total value of Johnson’s contract is nearly twice that of Mike Wallace, the second-highest paid receiver, and as Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap tweets, Megatron’s deal has always been viewed as an outlier. Nevertheless, Florio reports that the NFLPA believe it has reliable information that the two clubs involved “have been communicating to set, control, or manipulate the [receiver] market.”
Meanwhile, the Broncos say they have not been contacted by the NFLPA regarding this issue, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
5:48pm: Asked about the NFLPA’s investigation, a Cowboys source tells Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Telegram (Twitter link) there’s “nothing to it.” That’s what you’d expect to hear from a team source, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to indeed be the case.
3:59pm: With five days left for franchised players to negotiate multiyear contract agreements with their current teams, only two of the four unsigned franchise-tag recipients play the same position: Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the NFL Players Association is reviewing information to determine whether the Broncos and Cowboys have colluded in regard to contract talks for their two star receivers.
Per Schefter, the NFLPA believes the Broncos and Cowboys were in contact about Thomas’ and Bryant’s contract situations, despite the fact that the the league’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits such contact. The NFLPA is investigating the situation to determine whether or not collusion did in fact occur, and when to potentially file a claim.
July 15 is the deadline for franchised players to sign long-term extensions with their teams — if no agreement is reached by that date, a player who received the franchise tag will have to play on a one-year deal in 2015, if he intends to play at all. Given the relatively similar statistical production posted by Bryant and Thomas – as well as Bengals wideout A.J. Green and Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who are playing on fifth-year options this year – there’s been a sense that everyone is waiting for one team to extend its star receiver to establish the market.
Of course, if one team were to lock up its receiver to a lucrative new extension that exceeds his expected worth, it could adversely affect negotiations for other teams locking to lock up their own wideouts, driving up the price. As such, it makes sense that the Cowboys and Broncos might want to discuss the situation with one another, though Schefter’s report doesn’t suggest there’s any hard evidence that happened.