Mara: Redskins, Cowboys got off 'lucky'

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- John Mara, the owner of the New York Giants and the chairman of the NFL Management Committee, which imposed $46 million worth of salary-cap penalties on the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys for the way those teams structured contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, just walked through the lobby of The Breakers here on the day before the start of the NFL's annual meetings. Let's just say he's not having second thoughts.

"I thought the penalties imposed were proper," Mara said. "What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap. They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite frankly, I think they're lucky they didn't lose draft picks."

The Redskins and Cowboys have filed a grievance against the NFL and the NFLPA over the matter, and Mara said he was aware of that. But he does not appear to be worried that the Redskins and Cowboys will prevail. While there was no salary cap in 2010 and no rule prohibited teams from spending whatever they wanted to spend that year, Mara said the issue "came up several times in our meetings," and that there was an agreement not to engage in the kind of behavior in which the Redskins and Cowboys behaved by dumping big cap hits into the uncapped year in order to save against the cap in future seasons.

"We all knew the cap would come back," Mara said. "We were not going to enter into any agreement with the NFLPA if there was not a salary cap in it."

Outside of the NFL, which has its own agreed upon and collectively bargained rules regarding collusion, what the league did in 2010 would be regarded as collusive behavior -- all of the business owners in an industry conspiring and agreeing to limit the earnings of the workers in that industry. But Mara laughed off the word "collusion" when it was brought up this afternoon.

"This has nothing to do with collusion," he said. "It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences. There was nothing wrong with the individual contracts, but when you look at the overall scope of what they did, they were trying to take advantage and they were told not to."

This is clearly not the end of this argument. In fact, Jerry Jones checked into the hotel while Mara was talking to us, so I'm headed back to the lobby now to see if he's around and has anything to say about this. My guess is he'll disagree with what Mara thinks. Just a hunch.