As the Redskins, Dan Snyder and anyone who knows me is well aware, I’m much closer to the last person rather than the first to defend the brash franchise owner.

When new boss Snyder fired dozens of employees in 1999 because he could, I sympathized with them. When he treated most members of the media miserably during the next decade, I objected as an officer of the Pro Football Writers of America. When he threatened The City Paper over a caricature last year, I rolled my eyes.

However, I believe that Snyder and his Cowboys counterpart, Jerry Jones, are right to challenge their salary cap slapdown by the NFL by requesting that their case be reviewed by Special Master Stephen Burbank, the University of Pennsylvania Law School professor who has become the arbitrator of all league disputes.

Like Snyder and Jones, I didn’t go to law school. But then neither did NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or most of the owners of the other 30 teams who chose to punish Washington $36 million (over two years) and Dallas $10 million (over two years) two weeks ago today on the eve of the free agent signing period for perceived salary cap misbehavior in 2010.

Allegedly, the Redskins put the remaining $21 million of then-defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth’s guaranteed money and another $15 million due to cornerback DeAngelo Hall into the uncapped year of 2010 while the Cowboys did the same with receiver Miles Austin to help their salary cap situations whenever free agency returned in full after the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement.

On the face of it, what Snyder and Jones did, while smart business, sounds like hanky-panky. New York Giants co-owner John Mara, much more of a league insider as the chairman of the Management Council (the title of the group that negotiates the CBA with the NFL Players Association), than the frequent renegades from Washington and Dallas, was so outraged that he told that the Redskins and Cowboys should have been even more harshly penalized for reworking contracts for their own players.

“They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite, frankly, I they’re luck they didn’t lose draft picks,” tut-tutted Mara, whose franchise just happens to compete in the NFC East with Snyder’s Redskins and Jones’ Cowboys. “They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well (that) there would be consequences.”

I believe Mara when he said that Snyder and Jones and their 30 fellow owners were warned about consequences if they took advantage of the uncapped year.

Trouble is that the decision by the other owners not to violate what the salary cap would have been in 2010, if not for the lapse in the CBA, smacks of collusion. It’s similar to the 1985-87 baseball offseasons when the owners had a gentleman’s agreement to virtually stop signing multi-million dollar free agents.

What’s more, not only did the NFL dock the Redskins and Cowboys a combined $46 million, but it distributed that money to 28 of their rivals (New Orleans and Oakland didn’t get any because of alleged minor cap shenanigans) to spend in 2012.

So let’s get this straight.  All but two of the other 30 NFL owners agree not to rework contracts during the uncapped year. Then, they punish Washington and Dallas for doing so and stuff those bucks in their own coffers?  And you wonder why Snyder and Jones want an impartial arbitrator to hear their case? I’m surprised that they didn’t take the usual route of late Raiders owner Al Davis and just sue their brethren.

Between this dispute and BountyGate, this week’s league meetings in Palm Beach are not the celebration of the post-lockout NFL being back on track that Goodell and Co. had hoped that they would be. Think Snyder and Jones are all smiles and back-slaps behind the closed doors with their fellow owners?

David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.


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