- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

The NFL Players Association is backing linebacker LaVar Arrington in a formal grievance against the Washington Redskins, who are accused of shortchanging him $6.5million in the contract extension he signed at the end of last season.

Sources familiar with the dispute said the NFLPA had been weighing the merits of Arrington’s case, but NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen said last night any perceived delay in filing was because of efforts to resolve the dispute. Berthelsen said there was never any doubt the union would argue on behalf of the Pro Bowl linebacker.

“From Day 1, we’ve been supporting LaVar’s efforts to resolve this,” Berthelsen said.

Berthelsen provided the most detailed account of Arrington’s contention to date. According to Berthelsen, agent Carl Poston and Arrington claim that deadline pressure to get the nine-year extension done before the end of the season (as salary cap considerations dictated) prevented them from reading all the pages in the contract’s final draft.

Arrington’s camp claims the Redskins ignored an earlier agreement and substituted a final draft that did not include a $6.5million roster bonus due in 2006. Arrington and Poston signed off on the contract, which the league recognized as a $68million pact. Now Arrington wants the return of the disputed $6.5million.

The Redskins have issued several rebuttals in recent weeks, contending among other things that Poston initialed each page of the final document. Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson could not be reached last night after the union’s position became clear.

An NFL spokesman confirmed the league received Arrington’s formal claim, called a non-injury grievance. The spokesman said an impartial arbitrator would be assigned to the case and that it could be several months before a hearing.

Because Poston filed the grievance apart from the NFLPA, there was speculation he hadn’t won the union’s support. But Berthelsen dismissed that theory and said issues relating to the postponement of the filing deadline led Poston to move forward independently.

Despite the NFLPA’s backing, there remain questions about Arrington’s claim, non-Redskins sources familiar with the case said. An example is the initial haziness with which the dispute arose. Poston apparently did not notice the missing $6.5million for several weeks, and in initial dealings with the union he declined to say exactly where the $6.5million had been in the deal.

Also, there are several common-sense issues:

• There already is a $6.5million roster bonus in 2006 of Arrington’s contract. It is unclear why the sides would have agreed to a separate, simultaneous $6.5million roster bonus instead of simply lumping the two payments together.

• An additional $6.5million roster bonus would boost Arrington’s 2006 cap figure to an enormous $18.6million. It is unclear why Washington would have agreed to a pact that necessitated massive restructuring or Arrington’s release after only two seasons.

As the contract stands, Arrington is set to have a $12.1million cap figure in 2006. But sources said there is a clause that permits Washington to convert the $6.5million roster bonus to signing bonus for cap purposes, meaning the Redskins are assured of being able to lower his figure to a manageable $6.7million.

Neither Arrington nor Poston could be reached for comment.

Notes — Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Bobby Taylor will visit the Redskins on Thursday. New York Giants cornerback Ralph Brown was scheduled to arrive last night, while former Indianapolis Colts corner Walt Harris will visit tomorrow. The Redskins played host to former Chicago Bears linebacker Warrick Holdman, but no signing was imminent.

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