NFLPA Files Grievance Saying NFL Is Colluding To Prevent Players Getting Guaranteed Contracts

Deshaun Watson's $230 million contract was signed in March following his trade from the Houston Texans. The deal was viewed as a groundbreaking, and capable of opening up negotiations for top-level NFL talent to start getting paid with the 100 percent fully-guaranteed tag included.

It turns out Watson's deal only put NFL owners on notice. The NFLPA is filing a claim alleging that team owners started colluding after Watson's contract, agreeing to discontinue any requests by players and their agents for fully-guaranteed deals.

A leaguewide memo was sent out on October 20,2022 according to a new report from The Athletic. It revealed that the owners potentially agreed to reject any requests for fully-guaranteed deals in contract negotiations.

The report highlighted the Baltimore Ravens' reluctance to give Lamar Jackson a fully-guaranteed contract after partaking in contract talks for a new deal in the offseason.

Watson's Deal Alerted NFL Owners To Halt These Types of Contracts

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was one of the first critics of the Watson deal. He commented in March that the "groundbreaking" precedent will make negotiations a more significant challenge for owners.

"Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract," Bisciotti said during the NFL league meeting. "I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others."

NFL general counsel and executive vice president Jeff Pash addressed League owners and executives regarding the players association's legal claim. It alleges that front offices secretly agreed to prohibit fully-guaranteed deals during an Aug. 9 ownership meeting in Minneapolis— violating the Article 17 clause in the NFL and NFLPA's collective bargaining agreement, which forbids any influence on a team's contract negotiations from other organizations.

"(T)he expectation was that fully-guaranteed contracts would now become the competition-driven norm for the top players in the League, including quarterbacks, negotiating new contracts," one anonymous NFL executive told The Athletic regarding the potential collaboration.

"This is all in response to Lamar Jackson," an NFL agent told the outlet. "They are trying to say that Watson did his and Lamar was trying to get it and he couldn’t."

NFLPA Seeks Damages As Part of Claim

Part of the NFLPA's legal claim asks that players that have agreed to deals since the alleged collusion be awarded damages. These deals include recent QB contracts such as Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr.

"NFL owners and/or League executives discussed not agreeing to any additional player contracts with fully-guaranteed salaries."

"They don’t need to collude to do that,” an anonymous executive added. "The Browns are the only team willing to do that. Everybody else knows that it was a terrible contract."

The executive added, "They do not want fully guaranteed contracts like baseball and basketball have."

With Jackson still ardently seeking his guaranteed contract and Baltimore fairly keen on keeping him as their franchise QB, it's realistic that the NFL could witness a repeat of Watson's deal.

Despite the NFL's wish to erase the precedent set by Watson, asking players not to have their expectations set on achieving a fully-guaranteed deal feels like attempting to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Written by

Alejandro Avila lives in Southern California and previously covered news for the LA Football Network. Jeopardy expert and grumpy sports fan. Known for having watched every movie and constant craving for dessert. @alejandroaveela (on X)