On Sunday, Taylor Twellman broke the news the league would not be changing the DP rule midseason to allow the Galaxy to sign Ibrahimovic, stating "if Zlatan Ibrahimovic is playing in Major League Soccer in 2016, it will not be in an LA Galaxy uniform."
Shortly after, however, one of the biggest player agents in the country and someone extremely knowledgeable when it comes to signing mechanisms, Richard Motzkin, tweeted the following:
An @MLS club does not need a rule change to sign @Ibra_official , many creative ways to do so, if parties desire. https://t.co/hcXHjxGxgh— Richard Motzkin (@RichardMotzkin) May 15, 2016
So what exactly does Mr. Motzkin mean and is it really possible for the Galaxy to bring in Zlatan Ibrahimovic without using a DP spot? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, albeit with heavy empasis on "if parties desire," and we know this because the Galaxy have already pulled off something similar this year in the signing of Nigel De Jong.
When the Galaxy signed Nigel De Jong, they did so without breaking or bending a single rule. Instead, they found a loophole, and a giant one at that. According to a report by Kevin Baxter at the LA times, Nigel De Jong accepted a "cut-rate deal" with the Galaxy with clauses that trigger DP money the following season as he takes Gerrard's DP spot.
In the piece, Bruce Arena says "that took a little political work to make that happen," which certainly sounds like the Galaxy had to do some lobbying to the league to convince them this was legal.
Of course, performance based incentives are nothing new in MLS contracts, and, since the deal went through, we can assume that the league has no rules in place to prevent such incentives to be placed in a contract in such a manner that non-DP contracts can be ballooned as much as De Jong's will next year. It's a loophole, ladies and gentleman, and it might hold the key to how the Galaxy can sign Zlatan this year.
Zlatan could sign a contract in the sub-DP range with some kind of easily reachable contract incentive that pushes him into being paid Zlatan Ibrahimovic money next year. In said scenario, the league might find it impossible to block it since they've already deemed it legal by allowing the Nigel De Jong deal.
And this brings us back to the Motzkin tweet and that all important phrasing "if parties desire."
As we all know, Zlatan is a man of tremendous ego and the idea of him accepting such a low paycheck for a few months may be unacceptable. On the flip side, the Galaxy would still need another DP slot the following year, and, with De Jong taking Gerrard's spot, this means that Keane or Gio would have to go if the league doesn't decide to add a 4th DP slot in the off season (which they very well could as the addition of Atlanta United adds another rich owner to that vote).
Whether the parties are willing is entirely unclear, but the point in all of this is that it's possible. The precedent already exists in the Nigel De Jong deal for the Galaxy to sign Zlatan without jettisoning a DP this year.