Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney has a reason he believes NFL free agency was a bit slower than normal.
"I basically think the owners got together and decided not to spend the cash on free agents," Freeney told CBSSports.com. "I definitely think that's part of it. I think the owners made a pact. There's only 32 of them and none of them broke ranks. I think they all decided not to spend money."
Freeney's feelings about collusion do not break new ground. In April, the NFLPA expressed concern about the possibility, prompting an email from executive director DeMaurice Smith to player agents asking them to report any improper dealings with NFL teams.
The email, obtained by ESPNDallas.com, read: "We have heard reports of a concern that teams are working in concert to 'peg,' 'rig' or 'set' market prices on player contracts. If you believe or have information that the teams have been colluding during this free-agency period, you have a responsibility as an agent of the NFLPA to come forward and share that information with us."
The email also stated the union has "heard anecdotally" that some NFL teams are inaccurately reporting they have salary-cap issues in regard to signing veteran players.
NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said of the email: "Player signings in 2013 have been characterized by robust spending and intense competition. Anyone seeing collusion in this market is seeing ghosts."
However, an anonymous agent told CBSSports.com that free agency had an unusual tinge this offseason.
"I've been in this business for several decades and there was never an offseason like this. Never," the agent said.
"What you saw," Freeney said, "were guys getting small deals. I haven't seen anything like it. There was a lot of take-it-or-leave-it from teams. It was crazy. Even a guy like [Elvis] Dumervil didn't make as much money as he should have. He's in his prime."
The 33-year-old Freeney, who has registered 107½ sacks over his 11-year career, also found it surprising that it took him so long to get another job. He signed a two-year contract with a base salary of $8.75 million with the Chargers earlier this month.
"It takes one team to start things going," Freeney said, "but what was strange was initially there was no one team."
Information from ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins was used in this report.