Joe Kapp’s Lawsuit Paved the Way for N.F.L. Free Agency-

In 1967, Kapp joined the Minnesota Vikings, then coached by Bud Grant, another C.F.L. veteran. In his third season, Kapp led the Vikings to Super Bowl IV, where they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.

His three-year deal with Minnesota over, Kapp turned down the team’s new three-year, $100,000-per-year offer. Aware of Kapp’s injuries and inconsistent passing, the Vikings released him.

“Joe Kapp wasn’t the prettiest passer, but he was a vocal guy in the locker room,” said Joe Horrigan, retired executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “The truth was, he was at the end of his career. He was kept together with chewing gum and staples.”

The Vikings still controlled rights to Kapp’s services and, in October 1970, traded him to the woeful Patriots in return for John Charles, a cornerback, and a first-round pick in the 1972 draft. Kapp signed a personal services contract that paid him about $500,000 and was a less restrictive bridge between the Vikings and Patriots deals, Horrigan said.

The league asked Sullivan to have Kapp to sign a standard contract, but the Patriots owner kept putting it off. Sullivan was smitten with Kapp’s celebrity despite the quarterback having helped lead the team to a 2-12 record after the trade.

Kapp, under the advice of John Elliot Cook, his lawyer and agent, refused to sign a standard contract and, without one, had to leave training camp in summer 1971. That led to the final, ill-fated meeting in Bell’s office.

A federal judge in Northern California who heard Kapp’s first case found that the draft and the Rozelle rule were “patently unreasonable and illegal.” A jury in a subsequent case found that Kapp did not deserve damages from the Patriots or the N.F.L., creating something of a Pyrrhic victory.

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