Former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid has filed a grievance against the NFL citing collusion in the free agency process. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Dan Graziano, and the NFL Players Association has since issued a statement on the grievance.
“Our union is aware that Eric Reid and his legal representatives filed a collusion claim, which will be heard through the arbitration process as spelled out in our collective bargaining agreement. Our union supports Eric and we are considering other legal options to pursue.”
Reid hired attorney Mark Geragos, according to Graziano. If the name sounds familiar, it is because Geragos represents Colin Kaepernick in his own grievance against the league. That grievance has advanced to the discovery stage, with Geragos deposing a host of NFL owners, executives, and coaches.
Kaepernick filed his grievance last October, following seven months of some brief meetings, but little progress in finding a team. Reid did not wait as long, filing his grievance a little less than two months into free agency.
Reid met with the Cincinnati Bengals in April. He left without an offer amidst a report that Bengals owner Mike Brown asked him pointed questions about his plans with regard to taking a knee in the coming year. We don’t know if Kaepernick got similar questions last year during the free agency period, but if not, this is a significant difference that might explain Reid’s decision to file a collusion grievance now.
The safety market has been relatively soft, and people will use that as a go-to reason for why collusion is not taking place. Collusion is hard to prove without a proverbial smoking gun. If the Bengals chose not to sign Reid because of his protest, they are allowed to do that. Collusion happens if more than one team, or one team and the league office are in agreement on not signing Reid.
The league may or may not want Reid (and Kaepernick) signed, but I would be surprised if evidence is discovered for collusion. I do think owners and/or executives might be dumb enough to leave evidence of collusion. I am more inclined however to think any collusion would be more a implicit knowledge of what is wanted with regard to the more vocal of the protesters. If that is the case, evidence is going to be tough to come by.