Defensive end Dwight Freeney agreed to a two-year contract with the San Diego Chargers in May, but believes the free agency process took longer than expected because NFL owners across the league made a hush-hush deal with each other to low-ball free agents this offseason, according to a report from Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com on Thursday.
This would otherwise be known as collusion, and it wasn't just Freeney thinking it. According to Freeman's report, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told player agents in a letter to be wary of possible collusion amongst owners, as free agents became suspicious they were working together to keep contracts cheap. The NFLPA memo further alleges that teams may be falsifying the severity of their salary cap situations in order to justify offering a below-market asking price for veteran players.
Freeney laid it out pretty simply in the report:
"I basically think the owners got together and decided not to spend the cash on free agents. 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."
Freeney also says it wasn't the slow process that made him uneasy, it was the fact that his phone was dead quiet for too long. When it eventually rang, Freeney says, veterans like him were getting "take-it-or-leave-it"-type deals from teams. He also cited Baltimore Ravens defensive end/outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, the 29-year-old who inked a five-year contract that included $12 million in guaranteed cash, as a guy who "didn't make as much money as he should have."
An agent quoted in the article said, "I've been in this business for several decades and there was never an offseason like this. Never."
The NFL denied the accusations in the report.