The Athletic

NFL memo says NFLPA is alleging collusion in absence of fully guaranteed QB contracts

When the Cleveland Browns traded for Deshaun Watson and signed the quarterback to an unprecedented fully guaranteed contract in March, NFL owners were not pleased.

“Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told reporters at the NFL league meetings last March. “I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”

Owners like Bisciotti feared that Watson’s deal would set a precedent, and that the next quarterbacks up for new contracts would push for fully guaranteed deals as well. But the starting quarterbacks up next, Las Vegas’ Derek Carr (April), Arizona’s Kyler Murray (July) and Denver’s Russell Wilson (September) didn’t get it done in their deals. And most notably, Lamar Jackson elected to play out the final year of his contract with the Ravens, because he couldn’t get what Watson got.

And now, the NFLPA is alleging collusion among owners as the reason for it.

Per a memo dated Oct. 20, 2022, sent from the league’s general counsel Jeff Pash to club owners, presidents, general managers and counsel, the NFLPA filed a claim alleging that teams and the league have colluded to prevent clubs from offering players fully guaranteed contracts. One club executive sent the memo to The Athletic and another executive with a different team confirmed that he had also received the same memo.

The NFLPA declined to comment.

The league memo quotes from the NFLPA’s pleading, which The Athletic did not view, and says the NFLPA argues that “

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