Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The agent for linebacker LaVar Arrington has accused the Washington Redskins of shortchanging his client $6.5million in the contract he signed at the end of last season, NFL sources said yesterday.

Agent Carl Poston claims the Redskins turned a version of the contract in to the league that was different from the one the three-time Pro Bowl player agreed to. But the Redskins vehemently deny any wrongdoing, and the NFL Players Association hasn’t yet determined whether Poston’s accusation has merit.

The NFLPA is investigating the claim and will move forward if it finds enough evidence of impropriety by Washington, sources said. The NFL Management Council would be the arbiter.

But the Redskins issued a quick and detailed denial when contacted about the charge last night. Through team spokesman Karl Swanson, Redskins contract specialist Eric Schaffer had this to say:

“The agent’s claim is ridiculous. Details of the proposal were reviewed with the agent numerous times. Details of the contract were reviewed numerous times, and he made changes. The final contract was approved in writing before the agent recommended LaVar sign it. The agent initialed every page to acknowledge his approval before he signed it. That is the contract that was filed with the league.”

Neither Poston nor NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen returned phone calls seeking comment. NFL spokesman Greg Aeillo said he had heard nothing about the accusation.

Arrington’s deal was valued at nine years (including the 2003 season) and $68million when it reached the league. Poston apparently believes his client agreed to a nine-year, $74.5million contract. However, it should be noted Poston initially advertised the deal as nine years, $80million.

The deal was signed just before the end of last season to take advantage of the Redskins’ leftover 2003 salary cap space. But the contract raised immediate questions from league observers because it gave Washington cap relief and more contract years but rewarded Arrington with little extra value.

The NFLPA has not determined where the contract might have lost the $6.5million. Several sources indicated Poston might have to come forward with more evidence for a case to be heard.

Even if the charge ends up being dropped, it doesn’t help the Redskins’ track record of questionable business practices. In the past six months, the organization has drawn attention for suspected tampering in two cases.

The first instance came on the eve of last season, when the New England Patriots released safety Lawyer Milloy. SI.com quoted Milloy saying his agent — incidentally, Poston — contacted the Redskins before his release and that “the Redskins gave us a bigger offer than the Patriots.”

The NFL investigated the claim, but apparently no wrongdoing was found. League officials admit tampering is extremely difficult to prove because both parties simply can deny any wrongdoing. In fact, it is well-known in league circles that clubs often have conversations with agents that border on tampering if not broach it.

The Redskins drew attention for potential tampering again this month when a pair of newspaper reports claimed the club had contact with agent Angelo Wright regarding Patriots defensive tackle Ted Washington.

But that instance doesn’t seem to be meriting much investigation. The reports didn’t seem cognizant of any potential wrongdoing, and Wright and Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato later denied contact. Aeillo dismissed the Washington situation in a conversation last night.

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