The NFL Players Association alleges the league and its teams colluded to keep players from receiving fully guaranteed contracts.
In a report published Tuesday, The Athletic said that on Oct. 20, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash sent a confidential memo to team executive leadership notifying them that the NFL had filed the claim.
The memo, obtained by The Athletic, includes comments from the NFLPA's filing. The basis centers around quarterback Deshaun Watson signing a fully guaranteed contract with the Cleveland Browns and the players association anticipating "fully-guaranteed contracts would now become the competition driven norm for the top players in the League, including quarterbacks, negotiating new contracts."
Pash said in the memo the NFLPA alleges "NFL owners and/or League executives discussed not agreeing to any additional player contracts with fully-guaranteed salaries" before, after and at the owners meeting on Aug. 9.
The Browns gave up a bounty of draft picks to acquire Watson from the Houston Texans in March and signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract. The move, at the time, was seen as especially curious given that Watson was the subject of two dozen civil lawsuits filed by women who accused him of sexual impropriety during massages.
While no criminal charges were filed, the NFL suspended him 11 games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy and fined him $5 million.
Arizona signed Kyler Murray and the Broncos re-upped with trade acquisition Russell Wilson, but those lucrative deals were not 100 percent guaranteed. Negotiations between the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson have reportedly been hung up on that very detail -- whether his deal would be fully guaranteed.
Pash said the NFLPA is asking for an arbitrator to award damages and allow "certain quarterbacks who have been adversely affected by the collusive agreement to terminate their current player contracts. We are aware of no evidence supporting these collusion claims, which we will vigorously defend."
One NFL executive told The Athletic there was no agreement organized among owners.
"They don't need to collude to do that," the unidentified executive told The Athletic. "The Browns are the only team willing to do that. Everybody else knows that it was a terrible contract."
--Field Level Media