I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to suggest Lamar Jackson is a phenomenally talented quarterback who probably deserves the boatload of money he’s been trying to convince the Ravens to pay him while negotiating a new contract.
Baltimore may be a bit hesitant to hand over the massive bag their franchise quarterback wants, but it seemed like more than a few NFL teams that are in fairly desperate need of a QB would be more than willing to do exactly that if given the opportunity.
As a result, it was hard not to be a bit shocked by the lack of interest Jackson managed to attract after the Ravens placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on the player on Tuesday—especially when you consider a number of NFL teams that seemed to be interested in signing him reportedly dropped out of the running shortly after that news broke.
Those rumored suitors obviously had no obligation to reach out to Jackson. However, the fact that none of them pounced on the opportunity to at least kick the tires was a somewhat surprising development.
It didn’t take long for fans, players, and reporters to float a fairly juicy conspiracy theory that suggests NFL franchises are colluding to ensure Jackson doesn’t land the kind of deal that has the potential to set a precedent that would make the QB market an increasingly expensive place to shop at.
Trey Wingo spoke to one source inside the NFLPA who said the organization is concerned that may be the case, and while there’s currently no concrete evidence to support the collusion theory, it wouldn’t be the first time NFL teams have been accused of engaging in some unsavory (and illegal) behavior at the expense of players.
NFL teams have a lengthy history of collusion accusations
There’s an old adage that states “You don’t become a billionaire by spending money.” That might not be entirely true, but it’s safe to say most of the league’s megarich owners would prefer to keep their expenditures to a minimum.
While franchises are well within their right to spend their money how they see fit, they are not entitled to work together in an attempt to keep costs (and, more specifically, salaries) low, which constitutes a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.
That issue has served as the onus for multiple legal filings the NFLPA has brought against teams over the past decade or so.
In 2012, the players association accused owners of instituting a “secret” $123 million salary cap during the 2010 season.
That lawsuit stemmed from an internal vote that forced a number of franchises with a payroll that surpassed that number to reimburse the rest of the league for purportedly handing out contracts that “violated the spirit of competitive balance” (the case was ultimately dismissed).
Last year, the NFLPA filed another collusion claim that asserted owners had come to a behind-the-scenes agreement to avoid giving fully-guaranteed deals to high-profile quarterbacks after the Browns inked one with Deshaun Watson (that issue is inextricably linked with the Jackson saga, as the QB seems to want his contract structured in the same way).
Of course, you can’t talk about accusations of collusion against NFL teams without discussing the lawsuit that Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid filed in which they claimed they were blackballed for kneeling during the national anthem (the case was eventually settled for a reported $10 million).
Only time will tell if the NFLPA opts to go down a similar path if Jackson fails to get the money he (and they) feels he deserves, but based on recent history, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see the situation get messier.