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Multiple NFL owners reportedly questioned under oath over grievance alleging collusion against players

NFL owners
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League has largely avoided its biggest stars signing fully guaranteed contracts for decades. Now, a grievance filed by the NFL Players Association alleging collusion by NFL owners has turned into a legal battle.

In November 2022, the NFLPA filed a grievance alleging collusion between the league and team owners in order to prevent top quarterbacks from signing fully guaranteed contracts.

Related: Highest-paid NFL players

In a memo sent by the league’s general counsel Jeff Pash, obtained by The Athletic, NFL owners were informed that the players’ union was alleging that team owners have colluded to avoid more quarterbacks signing fully guaranteed contracts.

The NFLPA’s grievance came months after the Cleveland Browns signed quarterback Deshaun Watson to a five-year, $230 million contract with all $230 million guaranteed. It was the first time in NFL history that a player had signed a fully guaranteed deal worth more than $100 million.

Owners feared that Watson’s deal would set a precedent, with star quarterbacks seeking to follow in Watson’s footsteps. Instead, stars like Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow never came close to the fully guaranteed deal Watson signed.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, several owners have already been questioned under oath after being deposed as part of the inquiry. However, none of the owners who were questioned have been named and the nature of the matter means the names likely won’t be revealed.

Numerous NFL owners could provide compelling answers to questions as part of the grievance. Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam was responsible for Watson’s unprecedented contract, while Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti made it clear Jackson wouldn’t get one.

Another wrinkle to this ongoing fight between the NFL and NFLPA ties back to Jackson. After Baltimore placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on the All-Pro quarterback, Jackson was allowed to negotiate a contract with another team. However, not one team showed interest with a myriad of reasons provided as to why no NFL team wanted one fo the best quarterbacks in football.

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