Brett Favre and Contract Law

The news that Brett Favre is once again contemplating unretiring and is meeting with the Minnesota Vikings is only mildly interesting to me.  Not only is the story essentially a re-run of last summer’s drama but, frankly, Favre is a mediocre QB at this point (albeit nonetheless an upgrade over Tavaris Jackson).

One aspect I do find intriguing is this:  When he forced the Packers to trade him last year, the deal they worked out with the New York Jets included a “poison pill” stipulating that, should he be traded to Minnesota, New York would have to surrender three first-round picks to Green Bay.  Instead, Favre retired at the end of the season and the Jets released him a few days ago, making him a free agent.

Clearly, the Packers wanted to preclude Favre from going to a division rival and traded him only under conditions that made it incredibly unlikely that it’d happen.  Favre still had three years on his contract with the Packers at the time of the trade.  Why is this run-around permissible?

Photoshopped image by Drew Magary

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Sports, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    Favre is a mediocre QB at this point

    That may be but where I come from (the land of 0-16) he’d be a step up from what we’ve got.

    As for the run-around…looks like the “poison pill” verbiage was not as precise as it needed to be and if this violates the letter of that contract i’m sure the league will scuttle it.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Why is this run-around permissible?

    I’m guessing that Favre wasn’t a party to the contract in which Minnesota traded him to the Jets. To bind Favre, he would have had to have been a party to the contract and received some benefit.

    Also, contracts precluding you from working from a competitor are usually unenforceable as restraints on trade.

  3. Bithead says:

    That may be but where I come from (the land of 0-16) he’d be a step up from what we’ve got.

    and…

    Favre is a mediocre QB at this point (albeit nonetheless an upgrade over Tavaris Jackson).

    What, I ask, wouldn’t be an improvement of that situation?

    That said, and the legal aspects (which I don’t pretend to undersatdnfully) aside I wonder… given the assesment of Favre’s playing ability these days, I don’t quite understand why the Packers are worried about him playing for a division rival. Seems to me that even with the trades that 0 and 16 provides, they’ve still got far more problems than a slight uptick in the quality of their QB is going to provide, and that thereby GB has little if anything to fear at this stage. The money that Favre is going to soak up will clearly keep the Vikings off the trade wire, preventing them from picking up better quality players elsewhere in their formation…. players they need desperately. I should think Favre being in Minn be nothing but a help to GB at this point.

  4. FranklinTest says:

    Agreed. As some commenter was mentioning yesterday (sorry I forget who), Favre has always forced the ball into dangerous situations. He used to be able to make this work much of the time, but last season he ended up throwing tons of interceptions. If he plays Green Bay (which he apparently now hates with a vengeance), he would probably just try to force it even more, trying to will his way to a win. It won’t work.

  5. markm says:

    That may be but where I come from (the land of 0-16) he’d be a step up from what we’ve got.

    and…

    Favre is a mediocre QB at this point (albeit nonetheless an upgrade over Tavaris Jackson).

    What, I ask, wouldn’t be an improvement of that situation?

    I think if the Lions lured Andre Ware out of retirement…that wouldn’t be an improvement 🙂

  6. Rick Almeida says:

    Favre still had three years on his contract with the Packers at the time of the trade. Why is this run-around permissible?

    I would imagine it’s because Favre retired, was sent to the NFL equivalent of inactive reserve, and was released from his contract.

    Since there is no contract with Favre, there can be no penalty for trading where a trade does not exist.

    I have no dog in this fight and won’t even argue that this maneuver is “fair,” “just,” or even “smart,” but it seems permissible.

    n.b.: IANAL

  7. Not only is the story essentially a re-run of last summer’s drama …

    Last summer? This is year five of the Bret Favre NFL retirement tour. Don’t forget that he tortured the Packers with will I return/will I retire every year for a couple of years as well.

  8. Drew says:

    “Why is this run-around permissible?”

    Because Favre’s lawyers were better than the Packers’ lawyers, of course. But who is surprised, its a bunch of cheeseheads in Green Bay??

    The Bears are going to kick both their arses anyway…..

    😉

  9. Maybe the Packers would actually like to have Bret Favre as the Vikings’ QB this year while they wouldn’t have wanted it last year to give Aaron Rodgers a little more breathing room.

  10. G.A.Phillips says:

    The Bears are going to kick both their arses anyway…..

    Dude why? you know the Bears still suck, but congrats on obtaining your fist decent quarterback in 80+ years.

    And James that Photo is just wrong!

  11. GlennLee says:

    Newsflash! Brett Favre goes back in time! It’s WWII, and Favre’s in the Pacific theater. His CO calls him in to his tent. CO – “Brett, we gotta take you off the front lines. You been throwin’ grenades and killing your own guys.” Brett – “WHAT!!!??? Bulls*t! I still got it! You suck! I’m gonna go fight for the Japanese!!!”

    Favre’s a crybaby, a loser, and a traitor. I hope his tractor runs over both knees. Go away Favre, just go away, you bum.