Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
If Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas don't sign long-term contracts with their respective teams by Wednesday's deadline for franchise players to do so, the NFL players' union plans to move ahead with collusion charges against those teams, a source close to the situation told ESPN.
The NFLPA informed the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos on Monday that they need to preserve any emails, phone records, texts and records of other communication between the two teams, according to the source.
The union says it has credible information that the Cowboys and Broncos have had conversations about the negotiations of long-term deals for franchise wide receivers Bryant and Thomas, and the CBA grants the union the right to discovery in the case of a credible collusion claim.
According to a source, Cowboys executive vice president/COO Stephen Jones told Bryant during a recent conversation that he'd had a conversation with Broncos GM John Elway about the negotiations, which the union believes would constitute a violation of the CBA's anti-collusion rules.
The Cowboys declined to comment on the report.
If either Thomas or Bryant doesn't sign by Wednesday's deadline, the union would proceed with the claim and believes that a success would result in treble damages, entitling the player or players in question to triple the value of the highest current wide receiver contract on the market. Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, at roughly $16.2 million per year, is the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver.
It's obviously possible that the collusion charge is an effort on the part of the players and their agents to get these deals done by the deadline. If Bryant and Thomas both signed the long-term deals they seek before the deadline, the collusion charge likely would disappear. But the source indicated strongly that the union plans to proceed with the charge if either player remains unsigned after Wednesday.
After Wednesday, players who were designated franchise players by their teams during free agency are prohibited from signing long-term deals until after the end of the 2015 season.