http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/mike- ... -back-cash
Dwight Freeney believes owners were holding back cash
May 30, 2013 5:39 pm ET
Freeney didn't draw as much interest as expected on the market. (USATSI) Freeney didn't draw as much interest as expected on the market. (USATSI)
Dwight Freeney hit free agency this offseason, and like me and many others, expected the phone to ring rather quickly. He's had 107 1/2 sacks in the past 11 years and although he had a pedantic five sacks last season, low for him, there's no question Freeney is still a pass rushing force in the NFL.
The phone didn't ring, however. And Freeney waited. And waited. And waited some more. It was ... strange.
In almost every other free-agent season, a player like Freeney, no matter his age, would have at least a half-dozen teams wanting to sign him.
"It takes one team to start things going," said Freeney, "but what was strange was initially there was no one team."
Freeney is 33 years old and it could be argued the deals weren't happening because of his age or the perception he's slowing down. That perception is wrong, but it's not unfair.
But agents, players and union officials believe Freeney and others were part of one of the more unusual offseasons in recent league history. Agents and players, in particular, were saying privately that owners were hoarding money -- colluding, in other words -- and that is why so few free agents were receiving top deals.
In an interview with CBSSports.com, Freeney, who eventually signed with the San Diego Chargers, stated on the record what many players and agents -- and I mean a lot of them -- have been stating privately.
"I basically think the owners got together and decided not to spend the cash on free agents," Freeney explained. "I definitely think that's part of it. I think the owners made a pact. There's only 32 of them and none of them broke ranks. I think they all decided not to spend money."
The NFLPA was so concerned about collusion that executive director DeMaurice Smith sent a memo to all player agents asking if agents found proof of collusion, they should notify the union. Smith wrote, "We have heard reports of a concern that teams are working in concert to ‘peg', ‘rig' or ‘set' market prices on player contracts. If you believe or have information that the teams have been colluding during this free agency period, you have a responsibility as an agent of the NFLPA to come forward and share that information with us.”
Smith added in the letter: "We have heard anecdotally that some teams are inaccurately reporting that they are facing salary cap restrictions on resigning veteran players. While this is a common allegation and teams are free to make their own determinations on signing players, we provide this information to aid you in accurately evaluating each team's actual salary cap room.”
The NFL has denied collusion took place.
Said one prominent agent: "I've been in this business for several decades and there was never an offseason like this. Never."
"What you saw," said Freeney, "were guys getting small deals. I haven't seen anything like it. There was a lot of take-it-or-leave-it from teams.
"It was crazy. Even a guy like [Elvis] Dumervil didn't make as much money as he should have. He's in his prime."
Dumervil is 29 and signed a five-year deal with Baltimore that included $12 million guaranteed. It could be argued Dumervil deserved much more guaranteed cash. He spent six seasons in Denver and had 63 1/2 sacks and 16 forced fumbles. In 2009, he had an NFL-high 17 sacks. Last season he had 11, second on the Broncos.
Freeney is happy now and believes the Chargers could be a surprise team in the league next season.
Freeney also had a message for the teams that passed on him in free agency:
"I'm going to make all of them regret it."
I think he's right.