Labor talks break off without new agreemen
ESPN.com news services
Labor talks between NFL owners and the players' union have broken off without an agreement, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports. Representatives of the players' union walked out of negotiations Sunday evening, believing that an agreement with owners cannot be made.
"They're off," NFL vice president Joe Browne said after a day of bargaining that seemed to provide hope for an agreement.
The NFL had previously delayed the deadline for teams to get under the salary cap to 10 p.m. ET Sunday, Mortensen and ESPN.com's John Clayton reported.
Management wanted to extend the deadline to Wednesday, Mortensen reported, but the players' union would only agree to a four-hour delay from the original 6 p.m. ET deadline.
The owners and the players' union have until midnight Sunday to agree on an extension to the league's collective bargaining agreement, a scenario that now seems unlikely with talks breaking off. Free agency will begin on Monday at 12:01 a.m. ET.
If no agreement is reached on an extension to the CBA, the projected salary cap for 2006 will be $94.5 million. On Saturday, it was believed that about 10 franchises still had cap overages. Also, if there is no agreement, 2007 will be an uncapped year.
Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players' Association, told Mortensen that the two sides are meeting in New York again Sunday and that they communicated via e-mail on Saturday night after face-to-face talks broke down during the day. Sunday's talks reportedly began just before noon ET.
In an e-mail to The Washington Post, Upshaw said the two sides were "now in the area where we will get a deal. I think it may be there. It comes down to a few final points."
This is in stark contrast to how the talks ended Saturday. Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, one of the lead negotiators for the NFLPA and part of a small group that huddled with league representatives, termed the negotiations "as dead as a doornail."
Identifying a cause of death, given the veil of secrecy under which the negotiations were conducted for a total of 10-11 hours on Friday and Saturday, might be difficult. But the inability to bridge the differences over two key issues -- the internal revenue sharing among the league's 32 teams and the so-called "cash over cap" problem -- were almost certainly among the components which forced the end to negotiations.
One prominent owner strongly suggested to ESPN.com that those two issues, which he lumped under the umbrella category of "revenue sharing-related things," indeed led to the collapse of discussions.
It was difficult, however, in the immediate wake of Saturday afternoon's events, to even get the two sides to agree on what had transpired during two days at the bargaining table.
For example, two league sources told ESPN and ESPN.com on Saturday that the NFL had increased its offer on how much revenue would be split with players from 56.2 percent to between 58.2 and 58.5 percent. If true, that would have represented a predictable middle-ground compromise, given that NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw had been seeking 60.3 percent. An NFLPA source insisted, though, that the league's best offer never got to the 58-percent range.
Late Saturday night, Upshaw told Mortensen that the union did come down "a little" from the 60 percent cut of the revenue pie they were demanding. Earlier Upshaw denied that the owners had raised their ante by two points. Mortensen reports that the owners' last offer was 56.6 percent.
When informed late Saturday afternoon of the breakdown in talks, one frustrated owner resonded: "When we can't even agree on what the disagreements are on some issues, well, that just shows you how [messed] up the situation really is, right?"
As reported earlier this week by ESPN.com, there is a bloc of nine to 10 low-revenue franchises, very solid in their convictions, and prepared to veto any extension to the collective bargaining agreement that does not sufficiently address their own local needs. Owners of those teams view the internal revenue-sharing issue as critical to their financial viability in coming years.
But the low-revenue franchises aren't the only clubs currently opposed to a deal. The owner of one high-revenue franchise told ESPN.com on Saturday night that, counting teams at both ends of the spectrum, he projected that half of the 32 clubs would not endorse an extension to the collective bargaining agreement without further addressing revenue-sharing issues.
Asked if resuming negotiations on Sunday might break the impasse, that owner, who is actually in favor of moving ahead without a deal and seeing how the resultant system functions, said: "At this point, the gap is so wide, we could meet for a month of Sundays and not get anything done."
As Mortensen reported on Friday, the cash over cap component, which in many ways ties into the disparity between the league's "haves" and "have-nots" in terms of how money is calculated, also continues to divide NFL owners. Of course, the issue of cash over cap has always been a hot-button item for low-revenue franchises.
To comprehend the concept of cash over cap, one has to understand that the salary cap is just a bookkeeping number, one that can be massaged by amortizing signing bonuses, among other mechanisms. The cap has never been indicative of a team's payroll. The Redskin organization, believed to be the highest revenue-producing machine in the league, has had payrolls well over $100 million the last few seasons, even while the highest salary cap level ever was in 2005, at $85.5 million. The difference between a team's true payroll and its salary cap number is essentially what "cash over cap" means.
Sources said Saturday that, as part of the weekend discussions, the NFL proposed limiting the amount of cash over cap, per team, to 2 percent. While Upshaw has expressed concern in the past about cash over cap, he likely viewed the 2 percent limit as too low, and as potentially taking money away from players.
Re: Labor talks break off without new agreemen
Ok. Tomorrow they'll be back on.
Re: Labor talks break off without new agreemen
You really have to wonder what the hold-up is.