The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits teams from colluding. It doesn’t prevent players from colluding.
With the salary cap dropping and teams preparing to be extremely careful with spending, the NFL Players Association has advice for the agents who represent players: Collude.
During a virtual meeting of agents on Thursday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told agents that they “should work together during the upcoming free-agency period to ensure that teams aren’t taking advantage of the reduced 2021 salary cap to limit player salaries,” according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (via Sports Business Journal).
Smith added, per the report, that agents “should push back on teams trying to cut players for cap reasons and should consult with one another and with the NFLPA’s cap department on the offers they’re receiving.” Smith also “told the agents it was OK for them to ‘collude’ in free agency in order to ensure the best possible deals for players.”
Indeed it is. It always has been. The challenge becomes getting the agents to do it. It’s a highly-competitive industry, and it requires a level of honor that may not exist among agents who regard each other as thieves.
Information sharing, in theory, helps everyone. In isolation, it provides a real advantage for the unscrupulous, who may be tempted either to horde information or to share false data, all in the name of being able to eventually claim that the agent got a “better” deal for the agent’s client than a rival agent got for someone else.
The irony, of course, is that many believe that the NFL’s teams, while in theory banned from colluding, do it frequently — and do it effectively.