Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Nov 2005

Owens May Face Road Bloch in Arbitration Case

We're all sick of the T.O. talk, but absent from the complaints about his personality is a discussion of what this case means from a legal perspective. FOXSports.com legal analyst Rob Becker believes Owens will not win his arbitration hearing on Friday, because in his contract the Eagles agree to pay him for his services, but do not guarantee that they will use said services. The wrench in the works is the issue of incentive clauses; are the Eagles breaching the contract by not allowing Owens the attempt to achieve those goals?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 17 Nov 2005

22 comments, Last at 18 Nov 2005, 10:46pm by Dan Riley

Comments

1
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 12:44pm

The wrench in the works is the issue of incentive clauses; are the Eagles breaching the contract by not allowing Owens the attempt to achieve those goals?
If that's the case, then every player with incentive clauses, who's held out of even a single game, has a potential grievance.

2
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 12:50pm

I'd like to know what the contracts say about things like access to team training facilities, team doctors, etc. From what I know of the situation, I think my verdict would be that the Eagles don't have to play T.O., but they do have to give him the same access to those things as any other player under contract gets.

3
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 1:24pm

Do the labor laws specific to the State of Pennsylvania play a role here?

4
by roomservicetaco (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 1:45pm

Mike Florio from Profootballtalk.com has some in-depth analysis of the arbitration process and the legal ramifications:

http://profootballtalk.com/rumormill.htm

5
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 2:00pm

What's a "Bloch"? :)

6
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 2:02pm

Never mind. Should read article first next time.

7
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 2:14pm

Is the contract available anywhere? I'd like to have a look at the language, since that's whats important.

8
by Larry (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 3:28pm

According to the profootballtalk.com article, the only incentive TO has is to make the ProBowl. That seems like a pretty weak leg to stand on, since it isn't something the Eagles can even directly control by playing him or not playing him.

9
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 4:23pm

Re #8: Well, that explains the "Vote TO to the pro-bowl" banner on his webesite.

10
by Larry (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 5:07pm

I was going to add that I thought he might have a better shot at the ProBowl NOT playing, but it isn't just a fan vote. Still, it'd be a nice irony.

11
by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 8:48pm

If this incentive clause argument is upheld, couldn't a receiver with a clause concerning a number of catches file a grievance if the coach called a bunch of running plays? QB's with yardage incentives could conceivably no longer be benched no matter how badly they played.

12
by Aaron Boden (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 8:52pm

This just in - moronic talking head Skip Bayless of SI is trying to say that the NFL will knuckle under to TO because of Jesse Jackson. He also says "Eagles management is in trouble in this arbitration case. Then again, this team was overmatched against Owens from the day it signed him."

You got to love good ol' Skip

13
by Kuato (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 9:50pm

My question is . . .

Why do the Eagles WANT to keep paying him for the rest of the season? All he is doing is taking up roster space and money for no good reason. They could cut him and use the money to pick up another player or two for the stretch run and restructure a few deals.

Are they just worried about another team picking him up and using him against them? The Eagles don't have too much of a chance of making the playoffs at this point anyway (especially if McNabb is out for a long time), so why do they care if someone else wants to pick up the tab on Owens for the rest of the year?

And I highly doubt they will be able to trade him for anything in the off-season, as any potential trade partner would want to work out the deal with Owens before the trade is finalized and Owens could simply refuse any offer until he was a free agent.

In my mind there is no reason the Eagles shouldn't just cut Owens right now and let the waiver wire chaos begin.

Or are the Eagles just being vindictive by not cutting him now? Am I missing something here?

14
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2005 - 11:10pm

I think it's more the cap hit the Eagles would take if they cut him now, versus February, when they were expected to let him go anyway. Although Banner has generally acted like an ass during this process (seriously, has any negotiator ever gotten anywhere with publicly insulting the guy across the table?), the Eagles are enjoined by the contract to pay him for his services during this period, except for the maximum unpaid suspension permitted by the league.

Financially, it appears the best way for the Eagles to cut their losses at this point is to pay him until the release date after the Super Bowl. Releasing him now apparently obligates them to even more money than that.

15
by G. Grod (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 1:13am

There isn't a cap hit. Because Owens is a veteran, his contract was guaranteed when he was on the opening day roster. The Eagles are obligated to pay him if they cut him or not. If they cut him, and someone else signs him, the Eagles would be paying him to play for another team.

16
by Josh (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 2:53am

I don't think TO has a strong argument on the incentive clause, mainly because its too difficult to enforce, an arbitrator can't make the coach put him in the game. But there clearly is a difference between TO and some of the sliperry slope arguments raised, like in posts 1 and 11. There is no doubt that TO is the best WR on his team, and based on talent and production he should be playing. So if the team prevents him from playing, there's a stronger argument (though still not a very strong one) that they are acting in bad faith.
Another possible argument is that it is bad faith to act with intent to prevent an employee from earning compensation he has done most of the work to earn. For example, you can't get fired to prevent you from earning commissions you would earn if you stayed employed, for work you've done. If TO were very close to an incentive category (say for 1000 yards and he has 975), he could plausibly have an argument there, and the remedy would not be to order him back on the team but rather to pay him that incentive.

17
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 12:13pm

What intrigues me here is that in March of 2004, when Owens last went to arbitration over his contract situation, all the media talk was of about how Owens was screwed, he had no case, he was going to Baltimore and anyone thinking he could become a free agent should just forget about it.

Well, they were all just totally wrong last time, and Owens got what he wanted in a mediated settlement. And now here we go again.

Somehow, I have a feeling that the Owens case is going to work out very, very differently than anyone is currently expecting. Watching NFL Total Access last night, there was the same sudden conventional wisdom mood shift about the Owens case as occurred at his last arbitration.

Right now, it would not surprise me to see Owens back in Eagles green this year.

18
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 1:05pm

Josh (#16 )--

It's not a slippery slope argument to say that overturning a disciplinary suspension because of incentives clauses, would set a precedent and cause teams to reevaluate those clauses.

Andrew (#17 )--

I'd be surprised if he's in Eagle green, just because I don't believe the arbitrator has the authority to tell Coach Reid who he must keep on his active roster. Every team in the league would be against that, and change whatever rules needed changing to make that ruling go away.

19
by BK (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 4:05pm

Any Pats fans remember the exact circumstances regarding Terry Glenn in 2001? If I remember correctly, Belichick tried to suspend Glenn for the second half of 2001 season but Bloch (the same arbitrator) voided the suspension, and Glenn came back and had a pretty good game. Then he was not heard from again and did not receive a superbowl ring.

20
by Diamond Joe (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 5:16pm

I just wonder if T.O. is going to come out on the other side of this thing better off than Reid.
After hearing all the info, and reading about the Eagles every day.... I am convinced that Reid has to go. I don't think he handled the situation very well, and he certainly has contributed to some very questionable play calling, right? & then maybe the lack of acknowledgement by the eagles when T.O. scored the 100th td, well, maybe it was partially valid.
I only say this since this morning when I read Herm Edward's response regarding Curtis martin's quest for another 1,000 yard season. Herm's response was that he is very much aware of C-Mart's numbers, and he fully supports Curtis and his attempt at another consecutive 1,000 yard season, and furthermore Herm said he will be committed to Curtis accomplishing that goal.

Just maybe, maybe it isn't such a stretch to say that the Eagles would be better off if they kept T.O., and got rid of Reid!

21
by Kuato (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 5:17pm

According to ESPN this morning, if the Eagles cut Owens, they will take an cap hit in accordance with his signing bonus (which they have plenty of cap room to cover and will have to take the hit no matter what).

However, while his salary is guaranteed, it is not guaranteed who has to pay it. If he is picked up off waiver wires, the new club assumes all future financial responsibilities, and the Eagles are off the hook. The only way the Eagles have to pay him if the cut him is if no other team picks him up, which we know is not going to happen.

22
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2005 - 10:46pm

I've had my forefinger in the whirlpool all day. I've been fast forwarding on Tivo through all the T.O. stuff for 10 weeks and, I just may have to shut it down now.