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DeMaurice Smith strongly hints at possible collusion claim over fully-guaranteed contracts

Mike Florio and Peter King discuss the latest allegation against Deshaun Watson, as the Browns QB faces his 26th lawsuit while serving an 11-game suspension.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement does not mandate nor prohibit fully-guaranteed contracts. Whether and to what extent any, some, or all teams give fully-guaranteed contracts to players is up to each franchise.

In theory.

In practice, collusion can occur. Teams can agree among themselves to not utilize fully-guaranteed contracts. That becomes a potential violation of the CBA.

During a Tuesday interview with #PFTPM, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith strongly hinted that the union will be pursuing a collusion claim against the league over the issue of fully-guaranteed contracts.

The topic came up because Smith said that the union refers to ownership meetings as “collusion meetings.” It may seem like a joke, but it’s not. If the league, through the Management Council, urges teams to engage in certain contractual practices, that arguably becomes collusion. And these meetings are believed to include plenty of messages regarding the way the league prefers to have business done.

In March, the Browns broke ranks to give quarterback Deshaun Watson a fully-guaranteed, five-year deal. That prompted Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to call the deal “groundbreaking,” and to say that “it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”

That’s not a direct admission of collusion, but it’s the kind of thing that can become evidence of collusion. And since the Watson deal, other teams have refused and resisted to fully-guarantee quarterback contracts. Bisciotti’s Ravens have pushed back stronger than others, during the Lamar Jackson negotiations.

If/when the NFLPA files a collusion claim, things can get interesting. One of the potential remedies under the CBA is the termination of it. While the chances of that happening is slim, it shows that there are very serious potential consequences for collusion.

As the owners continue to conduct their latest round of collusion meetings today in New York, they should keep that in mind.