The Buccaneers have been awarded an extra $1 million worth of salary cap space in 2006, thanks to the ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das in the team’s grievance against former Tampa Bay wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who held out for five months in a contract dispute last year.
“The Club’s grievance is granted,” Das said in his report. “Keenan McCardell shall forthwith repay the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the total sum of $1,500,000.”
The Buccaneers weren’t the only party that was pleased with the outcome. Dennis L. Curran, who is senior vice president and general counsel of the NFL’s Management Council said: “We are pleased that, once again, a neutral arbitrator has enforced the terms of an NFL Player Contract agreed to by a player and club.”
“When Keenan McCardell refused to report to Tampa Bay in 2004 as a tactic to renegotiate his contract, he violated its terms and is required to return $1,500,000 received by him as signing and roster bonuses. Upholding these provisions discourages player holdouts at all NFL teams.”
During McCardell’s holdout, which began on June 22 and included missing the Bucs’ mandatory mini-camp, training camp, the preseason and the first six games of the 2004 season, Tampa Bay filed a grievance to penalize him for the damage his holdout caused the team. McCardell racked up over $700,000 in lost salary due to his holdout prior to the Bucs trading him San Diego on October 19.
Once McCardell repays the Buccaneers the $1.5 million worth of signing and roster bonus money, Tampa Bay will be able to spend $1 million more on its 2006 salary cap than other NFL teams will be allowed to spend.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen, who filed the grievance against McCardell last year, was expecting the team’s stance to prevail before the arbitrator.
“We were confident that the arbitrator would agree with us that Keenan McCardell’s actions were wrong,” said Allen. “His actions were a clear violation of a valid contract and the eventual consequences should have been obvious at the time.”
After having one of the league’s worst salary cap situations over the past two years, Allen has been working to get Tampa Bay out of cap trouble, evidenced by his paring of the Bucs’ 2006 salary cap from being $26 million over the cap to only a projected $12 million over the cap. When McCardell repays his bonus money to the Bucs, they will be just $11 million over the salary cap heading into the 2006 offseason.
With a few roster cuts or restructured contracts by Allen, the Bucs should have little problem creating the salary cap room necessary to be more active in free agency in 2006.
McCardell’s agent, Gary Uberstine, did not offer comment on the arbitrator’s ruling.
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