NFLPA Encourages Agent Collusion

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith urged agents for free agents at the same position to collude and increase leverage in a virtual meeting this week (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Smith anticipates that teams will try to cut players and dollars with the salary cap decreasing. With a bit of teamwork, Smith hopes to lessen the impact. 

The cap floor has been set at $180MM, once thought to be the potential cap ceiling. Still, the maximum is expected to be less than the $198.2MM limit from 2020. From this point forward, the cap will be largely dictated by the outcome of the league’s TV negotiations. Interestingly, Smith indicated that the cap for future seasons could still be impacted.

At the corporate level, collusion is an illegal practice. However, workers are free to collude, and use the term freely. Agents will occasionally work together to inform negotiations, but competition between player representatives sometimes gets in the way. In this unusual year, Smith wants players to be on the same page in order to get the largest deals possible.

The cap figure may fall somewhere between $182-$183MM, slightly above the agreed upon floor. It’s unlikely that the number will reach $185MM. No matter where it lands, the league will record its first salary cap decrease in over a decade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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37 comments on “NFLPA Encourages Agent Collusion

  1. mcmillankmm

    He’s got to do something….he’s on the hot seat and the players are losing trust in him

  2. bestno5

    I see this backfiring quite quickly. NFL owners don’t back down, especially if they know the agents/players are going to be colluding with each other.

  3. Flyby

    The NFLPA is encouraging players to collude at a position? Owners should do the same then at the owners meeting, have an agreement No LT gets more than 13 million … QB at 25 million WR at 10 million a year etc etc.

    I am not a fan of the owners but you cant flat out tell someone to do something and then do it yourself and proudly yell it in the media. Smith has really lost it.

      • Appalachian_Outlaw

        There are no regulations against players and agents colluding, whereas their is against NFL owners. There is a reason for that. If every owner colludes to set a market, it’s no longer a market. Players are capped. Owners don’t have to meet a players demand. They can pivot to a lesser talent, should they choose. There aren’t a limited number of potential players.

        Zero sympathy here for owners.

      • bencole

        Collusion is only fine when not disallowed by your CBA. That’s why the players can do it and the owners can’t.

    • beerncheese

      It sounds weirder than it is. It helps to view it from a broader perspective of how US labor law works.

      A union is a work group working together for purpose of collective bargaining. The managers of an employer also work together on their side of the bargaining table.

      All of the steel companies in the country are not allowed to collude against the Steelworkers union. But the steelworkers can coordinate their bargaining efforts against all steel companies because labor is viewed as one entity that is seeking separate agreements.

      The NFL is a league of separate employers so it is illegal for them to collude with each other against the union.

      If the league colluded they could set a pay ceiling as mentioned above. That’s illegal. The union set a pay floor through collective bargaining agreed to by both sides. That’s legal.

      There are many restrictions on what unions can do. For instance if the union strikes one steel company they cannot use it as grounds to strike another steel company.

      Keep in mind that unlike the rest of the labor movement, sports bargaining also includes agents bargaining the individual players deals that must comply with the actual collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA.

      Obviously a lot of labor case law to flesh out all the facts but this may provide a little clarity.

      • Black Ace57

        I think there is a difference between the average steel worker wanting workplace safety and a decent wage vs Dak Prescott demanding $40 million so Josh Allen can get that too. I have no sympathy for the owners either don’t get the wrong. Both sides are people basically arguing over how many expensive lobster dinners they can afford a year or how big of a mansion they can buy.

        • Appalachian_Outlaw

          I’d say yes and no, as to differences. Obviously there is quite a bit of difference in salary. Players also aren’t exactly scraping by to feed their families.

          The principal isn’t all that different, however. Everyone wants to be paid for what they offer. They could teach many more people to be steel workers, whereas only so many people are gifted enough to play professional football.

          I always have felt it’s hard to compare professional athletics to other professions.

          • Black Ace57

            But your previous comment was a comparison of the steel workers union to the NFLPA… you made the comparison between them yourself

            • Appalachian_Outlaw

              It’s hard, but not impossible. I say it’s hard because I think there is a segment of fans that see all those zeroes on a player’s check, and they don’t see them as labor anymore.

              • bencole

                What we have is a bunch of people who are jealous of people who make more money than them because they provide more value then them to their employers. People are mad at how they get treated and think that people who are rich shouldn’t have it better than them. Which is stupid, because that’s what being rich is.

  4. Black Ace57

    Why is collusion ok for one group, but not another? If the owners did this the NFLPA would threaten action. Each player has a responsibility to themselves and their families.

    • Sheep8

      Just saw Black Ace’s post, which mine was similar, so I will add new insight only

      Zero sympathy for millionaires fighting billionaires

      How is it fair for one side to not be negotiating in good faith? As much as it might be ‘legal,’ it is not in good faith, so when it comes to negotiations for the next CBA, the union should not use that term. They have lost any credibility.

  5. I Beg To Differ

    Lmao this won’t end well.

    Over the years players have accused owners of colluding and now the NFLPA is encouraging agents and players to collude against the owners.

    Oh the irony.

    This is going to blow up in the players face during the next CBA.

  6. I guess I don’t understand what the players are so concerned about. These teams are forced into spending within a very small range ($180-$183 million), so how much room for shenanigans is there? It’s not like they can artificially decrease salaries…they are forced to spend within $3 million of the expected cap. Teams can either afford a player or they can’t. Seems like the NFLPA just wants another issue to complain about, but maybe I’m missing something here

  7. beerncheese

    As Appalachian and I stated above there is labor law that sets the rules that both sides follow. It’s legal and fair.

    • Ak185

      If it were fair then there would hardly be any point in doing it. You as a negotiator want more leverage than your opponent, not equal amounts of it. there’s no altruism here. It’s just players (players’ agents, really) versus owners (team contract negotiators, really).

  8. beerncheese

    I should have added that the players have always colluded because it is legal. It just doesn’t result in anything.

    • CoachWe

      NFL has already experienced a decline due to Covid, and a few BS tactical errors. They can easily recover. If they follow the NBA, the wheels will fall off. The NFL is not an international sport like basketball.

  9. bestno5

    Hopefully teammates start demanding other teammates be traded because they don’t like them or aren’t performing. That would add a fun element to all these millionaire/billionaire whiners

    • Black Ace57

      They already are. KJ Wright of Seattle said that the Seahawks should shed salary so he can get paid more. That will mean one or more of the people he and his agent are supposed to collude with would be traded or make less money.

      • Yeah, which has to be fantastic for the Seahawks management when you combine it with whiny Russell demanding a better (and more expensive, presumably) offensive line. These players are way out of control with their assumed entitlement to make demands of the team…and their tendencies to bring these things to the public/media.

        Anyone recall hearing John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman, Lawrence Taylor, etc acting like this? Today’s players have it so much better and are paid so much better…maybe that’s where the sense of entitlement and arrogance comes from, or maybe it’s just a refection on today’s society as a whole. I sure miss the “old days”…it was a whole lot easier to be a fan of the players back then

        • Appalachian_Outlaw

          Are you talking about the same John Elway that refused to play for the then Baltimore Colts?

          Just because an employer pays you a salary doesn’t mean you have to happily accept whatever they say to do. There’s nothing wrong with independent thinking, and I’ve never thought “Man, can’t be a fan of that guy because he disagrees with…”

          You’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t at all understand it.

        • cka2nd

          The old days when the fans opposed the players during when they went out on strike? When most players still made under $100,000 a year for a career that might only last a few years, and leave them debilitated by 40 and dead by 50? Or in constant pain for the rest of their life?

          The USFL was extremely popular with the players because it finally gave them someone else to bargain with.

  10. forwhomjoshbelltolled

    “Football players should work for $7.25/hr and billionaires shouldn’t pay taxes. This is America!”

    • Ak185

      Yeah, that’s exactly what everyone is saying. You really nailed it there. Why bother with nuance or details, after all? That would be like admitting that there can be a legitimate reasoning behind opposing lines of thinking.

      Oh, actually, you’re right, we ARE in America. I forgot that we don’t do that whole “maybe you have a point as well” thing anymore.

  11. cka2nd

    What do you people think the draft is for? Or a free agency with “restricted” free agents and “exclusive rights” free agents? Or the salary cap, for that matter. They all exist to limit who the players can work for or bargain with, and therefore how much they can be paid. Hell, the whole point of a single professional sports league is for the owners to set rules (including on themselves) so that the players are restricted in who they can play for and how much they can get paid. And before the players had unions, they were totally screwed, but the unions are still a lot weaker than the owners, especially in the NFL.

  12. beerncheese

    Since there seems to be a lot of you guys who believe the players could somehow effectively collude against the owners please tell me how they would do it and what it would achieve.

  13. crosseyedlemon

    90% of free agents are aged veterans looking for a one year deal or underachievers who might be useful as second or third stringers on the depth chart. I don’t think agent collusion would accomplish much in those situations.

  14. Ak185

    This sounds all well and good until you realize that there IS actually a salary cap. Big ticket free agents WILL get paid more, but that leaves less for other players. Teams will end up signing players to fill the space-obviously they have to-but the guys who really lose out will be middle of the pack players who might have been affordable had the stars not demanded huge contracts. We can excuse players for wanting more money, but this does not help the majority of the players who will go unsigned or be forced to settle for less money after the teams are squeezed for money. Smith’s audience here hardly represents the majority of players.

    For the record, the NFL shrinking the salary cap is ridiculous. I know it is structured in proportion to their earnings, which shrunk as a whole, but this season and last are both something of an anomaly each. I know their books look bad, but they can afford to take the “hit” of maintaining a normal cap. This is one area of spending that can actually give them a return-more money spent on free agents means better team play (theoretically at least) and more star power. Both of those things can help in generating fan revenue, either through interest in a winning team or memorabilia of good players. When a star signs with a team, the first thing a lot of fans do is buy his jersey, for example.

    Shrinking the cap seems very unnecessary to me. However, encouraging stars to demand more of it can only hurt the middle tier players who will be forced to accept less of it.

    • Flyby

      If i remember right, the salary cap estimate was in the high 160 low 170s if they used the actual structure. They did do a covid adjustment for a floor higher than what the cap should be because that would be huge for the players and teams to lose 30M when a good portion are usually over the cap for the next year.

      • Ak185

        Right now, estimates are about 16 million or so down from the previous number, which was I believe $198 million (now the estimates are about $180-183 I think). That’s at least one high level free agent contract, or two or three low value ones.

        I just can’t see how leaving it at $198 million would break the bank. Again, that does not validate Smith’s idea that banding together and rejecting contract offers will help players all get more lucrative deals. That strategy still protects big name free agents over lower tier ones.

  15. bumpy93

    wow, how would the NFLPA act if Roger goodell come out and tell the owners to collude together. hasn’t the NFLPA cried and moaned about possible collusion with the owners of the last few seasons? it’s absolutely ridiculous

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