March 24, 2014

Cowboys file complaint against Ratliff over rancorous split

Dallas wants to recoup money from former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff.

Owner Jerry Jones confirmed Monday that the Dallas Cowboys have filed a complaint against Jay Ratliff for not playing with the team last season because of injury and then finishing the season playing for the Chicago Bears.

The Cowboys are looking to recoup signing bonus money, base salary from 2013 and money for a suite the defensive tackle purchased at AT&T Stadium, according to a source.

“It just stems from him not playing for us under the pretense of injury, and then days later playing for someone else,” Jones said. “We just have a complaint and we’ll see where we take it from there.”

Mark Slough, Ratliff’s agent, declined comment.

The NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association are involved in the grievance. Jones has discussed the issue at length during the NFL owners meetings this week.

Jones understands the situation might be an uphill battle because it was the Cowboys who terminated Ratliff’s contract last season and the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement doesn’t cover such a grievance.

But the Cowboys are looking to establish precedent so this type of thing — “where a player can say he is hurt one day and signs to play with another team” — doesn’t happen again, a source said.

It is the latest salvo in what has been a muddled relationship with the former Pro Bowler ever since he signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Cowboys in 2011. It included $18 million in guaranteed money and a $10 million signing bonus.

The situation started going downhill in 2012 when Ratliff missed 10 games and threatened Jones physically and verbally after a game.

Last year, Ratliff missed the entire off-season, all of training camp and the preseason recovering from a sports hernia surgery that his representatives said was much more serious than reported.

Ratliff was placed on the physically unable to perform list for the first six weeks of the season. When he still wasn’t ready to return and gave the Cowboys the impression that he would not be ready to play at all this season, he was released Oct. 16.

Ratliff was cleared to play by his surgeon a week later and began soliciting offers from other teams, culminating with his signing with the Bears.

Ratliff played in five games with Chicago to end the 2013 season. He recently signed a two-year, $4 million contract extension with the team.

Orton will return

Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said he has talked a few times with Kyle Orton’s agent, David Dunn, and it’s his understanding that the quarterback will return to his role as Tony Romo’s primary backup. There had been whispers of Orton thinking about retirement, but not anymore, Jones said.

“Yes, that’s how I understand it,” Jones said from the NFL owners meetings on Monday. “I guess everyone reserves the right to change their mind. We’re assuming he’s under contract, and he is.”

Orton would have to return $3 million of his $5 million signing bonus if he decided to retire.

Cuban talk

Stephen Jones disagreed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s comments about the NFL being on the verge of implosion because of oversaturation, particularly via the league’s television package.

“I think a lot of Mark, but in this particular case, I hope he’s in the wrong, not the right,” Jones said. “At some point, I would like to know what he’s seeing that we may not be seeing.”

More draft picks

The NFL awarded the Cowboys three compensatory picks in the seventh round Monday, giving them 11 total picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Cowboys were given picks 248, 251 and 254 in the May draft because of the losses in free agency last year of Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Mike Jenkins and John Phillips. The Cowboys signed one player, linebacker Justin Durant, which is why they were awarded three picks.

The Cowboys now have six seventh-round picks to go along with picks in each of the first five rounds, including the 16th overall selection. They do not have a sixth-round pick.

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