Hefty Fine in NFL Salary Cap Dispute

N E W   Y O R K, Dec. 1, 2000 -- Cleveland Browns President Carmen Policy and team Vice President Dwight Clark agreed to pay $600,000 today for violating the NFL salary cap while with the San Francisco 49ers.

The settlement calls for Policy to pay $400,000 and Clark $200,000.

The principal issues involved provisions included in quarterback Jim Druckenmiller’s rookie contract, deals signed by linebacker Lee Woodall and tight end Brent Jones, and allegations of an undisclosed agreement involving quarterback Steve Young.

“Although there are many legal and factual differences of opinion over many of the issues, everyone connected with the matter agrees that this settlement is in the best interests of everyone involved, including the NFL,” Policy said in a statement.

Penalty Affects Draft Choices

As part of the settlement, the 49ers agreed to pay $300,000 and surrender two draft choices — their fifth pick in the 2001 draft and third selection in 2002.

In addition, the 49ers agreed to recognize a commitment of $483,000 that the club’s prior ownership and management made to Jones.

The settlement, made with the agreement of the NFL Players Association, also calls for the player agents involved — Leigh Steinberg, Jeff Moorad and Gary Wichard — to pay substantial fines to settle claims.

It also permits Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to suspend for up to one year any club executive found to have entered into an undisclosed agreement or payment, and increases from $2 million to $3.5 million the amount clubs can be fined for entering into undisclosed payments or agreements.

The commissioner also may take two first-round draft choices from teams violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement with side deals.

The CBA also permits the commissioner to fine individual club personnel up to $250,000 each for their roles in any undisclosed agreements. Players and agents may be fined the same amount by the CBA Special Master.

In October, NBA Commissioner David Stern took five No. 1 picks away from the Minnesota Timberwolves and fined the team $3.5 million for violating the NBA salary cap.

Policy: Not a Violation

Policy defended his role in a statement issued by the Browns.

“I steadfastly maintain that I did not intend to violate any of the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement nor do I feel that any of my actions amounted to a violation,” he said. “I cannot envision myself as an adversary of the NFL, especially in a situation involving litigation. A courtroom victory against the league would be the equivalent of winning a battle but losing the war.”

The principal issues involved allegations of an undisclosed agreement concerning duration and incentive provisions of Druckenmiller’s rookie contract, undisclosed agreement concerning the duration of Woodall’s contract, undisclosed commitments and payments made to Jones in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, and an agreement made between the agent for Young and the club regarding the quarterback’s future compensation.

Steinberg, agent for Young and Jones, said, “We have no finding of liability. Our players get paid and worthy charities will benefit. This is the solution we advocated for some time.”

Harold Henderson, the NFL’s executive vice president for labor relations, said the league was satisfied with the outcome.

“Under our new agreement with the Players Association for stiffer penalties and enforcement, future issues of cap violation will not be settled,” he said.

“Such cases will be prosecuted to a conclusion before the Special Master, and a violation will be subject to discipline under the significantly increased sanctions authorized by today’s agreement. This new agreement also eliminates the uncertainties and risks associated with litigating to a conclusion the types of complex issues raised in the 49ers case.”