- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Washington Redskins have no intention of reaching a financial settlement with linebacker LaVar Arrington to prevent his grievance from being heard before an arbitrator, sources familiar with the dispute said yesterday.

A hearing isn’t expected for several months now that Arrington and agent Carl Poston have filed their claim, called a non-injury grievance, with the NFL. But it appears that the only way a hearing will be averted is if Arrington drops the grievance.

At issue is a $6.5 million roster bonus Arrington says was removed from 2006 of the contract extension he signed before the end of last season. Arrington claims deadline pressure kept him and Poston from reading every page of the contract’s final draft, and that Washington agreed to the bonus but left it out of the final draft.

The NFL Players Association is backing Arrington and will argue on his behalf if the case reaches an arbitrator. The NFL Management Council is responding to Arrington’s grievance (a formality) on behalf of the Redskins, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The Redskins no longer are commenting on the matter now that it is headed for arbitration, but their comments in recent weeks reflect what has been made clear to sources familiar with the dispute: there will be no settlement. The club took a hard-line stance, calling the claim “ridiculous” and saying it has copies of each version of the contract to prove the bonus never existed.

Meanwhile, Aiello confirmed that the Redskins will suffer no short-term salary cap effects from the grievance. Generally speaking in NFL financial disputes, half of the amount in question is applied to a team’s cap while the grievance is being resolved. But this money concerns the 2006 season and Aiello said no adjustment will be made to make it a 2004 cap concern.

Of course, if Arrington wins the dispute, the $6.5million would be added to his 2006 cap figure, bringing it to $18.6million.

One issue that is shaping up as significant is when a contract must be complete to count for a given season. The sides wanted to complete the deal before the end of the 2003 season to use up the remainder of Washington’s 2003 cap space.

There is some thought around the league that a deal must be done by 4p.m. (close of business) Friday before the final regular-season games. Poston apparently was functioning under that premise and now is claiming the 4p.m. deadline prevented him from reading every page of the contract’s final draft.

Although the collective bargaining agreement contains language that indicates the deadline actually is the last regular-season game, Aiello said the matter remains unresolved and is likely to be debated during Arrington’s hearing.

Non-Redskins sources have indicated a number of questions regarding Arrington’s claim, from the several weeks it took Arrington’s camp to notice the missing bonus to the fact that it makes little sense for the bonus to be where Arrington says it was.

All that notwithstanding, an area professor specializing in contract law said Arrington will face a rather high standard of proof for the claim he is making against the Redskins — fraud.

According to George Washington law professor Gregory E. Maggs, a written contract settles disputes with two exceptions: when one party has defrauded the other party, or when there is a mutual mistake by both parties.

In all likelihood, Arrington’s camp will be arguing fraud. However, proving fraud is more complicated than one party simply testifying that the other party said it would include (or remove) an element of the contract and didn’t.

“You can’t simply testify, ‘We previously agreed,’” Maggs said. “What you have to say is, ‘When I signed, you told me, with the intent to deceive me, that the clause was in the contract. And I relied on what you said.’”

Although it is possible testimony could swing the arbitrator to Arrington’s side, Arrington likely will need physical evidence to counter the Redskins’ signed and initialed previous versions of the contract (assuming they exist). Earlier versions of a contract or “a smoking-gun e-mail” are two examples of evidence that can help meet the standard of proof for fraud, Maggs said.

“Generally, oral evidence doesn’t count for anything when there’s a signed contract,” Maggs said.

Notes — Free agent cornerback Ralph Brown completed a visit with no signing imminent. Walt Harris was in town for a visit through today and Bobby Taylor, who would represent a major signing, will visit later this week. However, a club source emphasized that Taylor likely is too expensive at this point. Defensive end Kenny Holmes is scheduled to arrive for a visit tonight.

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