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Labor cloud rolls in over salary cap's final season ..

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  • Labor cloud rolls in over salary cap's final season ..

    by Alex Marvez

    NEW YORK - The 2009 NFL season doesn't just mark the end of a remarkable decade. It may also represent the last year of pro football as we have grown to know it. Imagine:
    A league with no salary cap, but restrictions hindering the best clubs from spending freely.

    Rules that keep some budding stars from becoming unrestricted free agents until their sixth season when the average career length is less than four.

    No minimum spending limit on team salary.
    All of this could be coming in 2010, threatening the competitive balance that distinguishes the NFL from Major League Baseball.

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said there is a "strong reality" that a new labor agreement won't be reached with the NFL Players Association before the 2010 league year begins in early March. The impasse will trigger far-reaching changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that are much friendlier for team owners than the players.

    "We have a lot to do and address," Goodell said during a meeting last week with select media at league headquarters. "The progress to date is minimal."

    I get the feeling NFL owners want it that way for now.

    These are the folks pleading poverty after the 2006 CBA extension didn't unfold as they envisioned. In the past five years, team profit margins have plummeted as the salary cap skyrocketed from $85.5 million to $127 million.

    The current CBA requires franchises to spend at least $107 million on 2009 player salaries. Without a minimum floor in the 2010 CBA, the money grab will be on. I envision some teams pocketing upwards of $50 million while still being able to keep their current rosters largely intact.

    The number of seasons players are required to accrue for unrestricted free agency will jump from four to six. Clubs can retain their best players through high restricted free agent tenders that would scare off suitors not willing to surrender first- and third-round draft picks as compensation. Shawne Merriman, DeMarcus Ware and Braylon Edwards are three of the biggest names who currently face that reality.

    Some standout players with more than six years of NFL experience headed toward free agency don't have it much better. Teams will not only still have use of the franchise tag, which generates a numbing effect on player movement because of the high compensation involved. They also shall receive an additional "transition" tag. That designation allows a club to match any offer that a tagged free agent signs elsewhere (although no compensation is required from the suitor).

    The forecast is even worse for some big-name veterans. Expect a purge of aging stars because there will be no cap impact for dumping those with high salaries. Denver cornerback Champ Bailey ($9.5 million), Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher ($6.8 million) and Dallas left tackle Flozell Adams ($5 million) could be on the endangered list without strong 2009 campaigns.

    On the flip side, there are owners Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder come to mind that could spend lavishly without cap restraints. But there are rules limiting who can open their checkbooks. The eight teams that reach the second round of the playoffs must first lose some of their own free agents to other teams before being allowed to dip into the market for replacements.

    Such clauses were intended to prevent a short-term New York Yankees/Pittsburgh Pirates-type disparity in talent and salary. But the NFL seems headed in that direction unless a cap system returns in 2011 the same year that the CBA expires and a potential work stoppage looms for the first time in 24 years. Without a cap, small-market teams that build primarily through the draft most notably defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh will have their rosters gradually picked apart unless the rules limiting free-agent movement remain. I can't see the union agreeing to those stipulations in the next CBA.

    Maybe the uncapped season could have been avoided if former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw hadn't died in August 2008. Before his passing, Upshaw espoused that his union wouldn't accept the cap again if a season was played without one. Upshaw, though, would have been savvy enough to realize how severely player payrolls were likely to get slashed in 2010 and pushed the NFL for early negotiations.

    More than eight months of valuable bargaining time was lost in 2008 and 2009 as the NFLPA finalized the installation of Upshaw's replacement DeMaurice Smith. Even if the NFL desperately wanted a new CBA agreement in 2010, there probably wasn't enough time to hammer one out by the time Smith settled into his new job especially with upcoming in-fighting expected among some team owners about revenue sharing.

    Goodell recently had lunch with Smith, but said CBA negotiations have yet to begin in earnest. That's enough to make any NFL fan choke who likes the game the way it is.

  • #2
    Re: Labor cloud rolls in over salary cap's final season ..

    It's a scary scary world out there for those of us fan of the game as well as that of the Rams. The count down is on, and I don't know if they'll be able to get it done in time. Last time they needed an extension, but that was an easy negotiation compared to this. This will certainly get more ugly before it gets better.
    I believe!:ram:


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      NFL Heads Toward Labor Showdown
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      NFL heads toward labor showdown

      AP Football Writer

      NEW YORK (AP) -- Rich, powerful and more popular than ever, the NFL gets closer to a doomsday scenario every day.

      Without a deal in the next five weeks to preserve the labor peace that has lasted since a bad month in 1987 - anybody remember scab football? - next season will have no salary cap. That means richer teams such as the Redskins and Patriots will be able to far outspend clubs such as Jacksonville and Buffalo for free agents, while the Jaguars and Bills might try to pinch pennies to stay in business.

      And if no deal can be reached next season, that uncapped, maybe less competitive year will be followed by no NFL at all in 2011. Stay tuned as the nation's most lucrative and most watched sport heads into the Great Unknown.

      "It looks very bleak to get a (deal) done before March of this year or the beginning of the new NFL season," says Titans center Kevin Mawae, president of the players' union.

      "We're going to continue to try. ... Until we come to some terms of what's really important and what are the big issues in this deal it's going to be tough to get something done.

      "The players are more united than ever before, and we're preparing for a lockout."

      And getting antsy about the future.

      "From our standpoint right now, you not only prepare for the worst, that seems like the direction it's headed," Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch says. "If players aren't prepared, if guys are in bad financial situations, it hurts our leverage as players."

      The main issue, of course, is money - despite soaring TV ratings, an average franchise value of $1 billion and even a storybook Super Bowl featuring the hard-luck Saints and MVP Peyton Manning's Colts.

      The NFL owners in 2008 opted out of their contract - called the collective bargaining agreement, or CBA - and have asked for significant givebacks from the players, including a reduction in salaries of nearly 20 percent.

      That works out to about $800 million; overall NFL revenues are estimated at $6.5 billion. Those owners say the agreement that will expire next year is far too favorable for the players, who get about 60 percent of the revenues actually used to determine the salary cap.

      "What we're trying to accomplish here is to have an economic system ... that will allow us to look back 15 years from now and say that we, meaning the clubs and the players, were creative and thoughtful and laid the groundwork for the game to continue to grow," says NFL executive VP and chief counsel Jeff Pash.

      "If we have the right type of structure, it will lead to better salaries and benefits for current and retired players, and...
      -01-26-2010, 03:24 PM
    • RamWraith
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      NEW YORK -- NFL owners voted unanimously Thursday to break off talks with the players' union on a contract extension, leaving the current salary cap in place with the start of free agency looming and possibly forcing the mass dumping of veterans.
      The owners, who met for 57 minutes Thursday morning, endorsed a recommendation by their management council executive committee to reject the union's latest proposal.

      NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the financial demands made by the players were unacceptable.

      "We are indeed deadlocked," Tagliabue said.

      The breakdown of talks left intact, for now, a salary cap of $94.5 million. The two sides had hoped to add $10 million to $15 million to the 2006 salary cap. Without the additional room, some teams could be forced into wholesale cuts to get beneath the cap by midnight. Free agency starts Friday.

      "Without an agreement with the union on an extension, the league year will begin as scheduled at midnight Thursday under the current terms of the CBA," the league said Wednesday in a statement.

      Owners did not seem inclined to cut into the difference of 4 percentage points between the sides. New England owner Robert Kraft had suggested that the meeting Thursday morning might be short, just enough time to rubber stamp the executive committee's decision.

      One reason was that revenue sharing, a point of contention among the owners, was not on the agenda, at least not at the start. The union insists that is needed for agreement and some owners agree.

      Asked if there could be a deal without it, Buffalo's Ralph Wilson simply said no.

      Three days of talks between the league and the NFL Players Association to extend the agreement that runs out in 2008 ended Tuesday with the sides far apart on the percentage of league revenues earmarked for players.

      Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director, said the league is offering 56.2 percent of its total revenue for the players, almost four points lower than the union's idea.

      "Our number has to start with a six," Upshaw said.

      But beyond the numbers is an issue that has divided the owners for two years: revenue sharing among the teams.

      Under the current system, some teams make far more than others in ancillary income, ranging from local radio rights to stadium naming rights and advertising. The lower-revenue teams say that forces them to commit as much as 70 percent of that money to the players while teams with more outside money contribute far less, giving the high-revenue teams more available cash for upfront bonuses to free agents.

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      -03-02-2006, 01:27 PM
    • RamsFan16
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      The sudden change in the climate of labor negotiations between the NFL and the players' association, and the sudden flurry of player cuts, has left many fans with questions. Fortunately, has answers.

      What is the primary issue?
      The deadline to extend the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) had been scheduled to expire at 12:01 a.m. Friday, March 3. However, the league and the players' union mutually agreed late Thursday to extend that deadline by 72 hours, to Monday, March 6, at 12:01 a.m. This is merely the negotiating period to extend the CBA. The CBA itself does not expire until after the 2007 season.

      Why is that deadline important?
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      Could the negotiating deadline be extended again?
      Once thought unlikely, a further delay in the start of the new fiscal year is certainly possible given Thursday's developments. Pushing back the start of free agency gives the league and the union more time to work on an extension, and in the event an extension still can't be reached, gives teams more time to come into compliance with the 2006 cap.

      If the sides are unable to agree on an extension, though, some teams will have to release some very significant players in order to clear cap room. The 2005 cap was $85.5 million, and teams were anticipating a 2006 cap of around $102 million with an extension to the CBA. However, the actual 2006 cap is going to be $94.5 million, which has some teams scrambling to comply.

      If an extension is reached, what happens to players already released for cap purposes?
      A high-level source with one NFL team told the league has informed teams that any player placed on waivers during this period of uncertainty can be recalled from waivers until there is more clarity about the pending free-agency period.

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      -03-04-2006, 09:07 AM
    • Rambos
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      NEW YORK -- The NFL and its players union were at an impasse Thursday, leaving hundreds of players, including some big stars, in danger of getting cut.

      "The situation is about as dire as dire can be," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said after the owners met for 57 minutes to endorse a recommendation by their management council executive committee to reject the union's latest proposal.

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      The breakdown of talks left intact, for now, a salary cap of $94.5 million. The two sides had hoped to add $10 million to $15 million to the 2006 salary cap.

      Without the additional room, some teams could be forced into wholesale cuts to get beneath the cap by midnight, including some of the game's biggest stars, such as quarterback Steve McNair of Tennessee, who has been balking at renegotiating his contract.

      And he might be only one of many as free agency starts Friday.

      Without an agreement, 2006 will be the last season with a salary cap; under the current contract, 2007 is scheduled to be an uncapped year.

      Owners did not seem inclined to cut into the difference of 4 percentage points between the sides. New England owner Robert Kraft had suggested that Thursday morning's meeting might be short, just enough time to rubber stamp the executive committee's decision.

      That's exactly what the owners did.

      "The players are totally out of bounds," said Dallas owner Jerry Jones. Most of the other owners declined comment, unusual in a league where many are eager to express their opinion.

      Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he expected the move by the owners. He said it was unlikely that talks would resume soon, although some league officials suggested anything could happen.

      But the two sides remain far apart. According to Upshaw, the union wants a little over 60 percent of the league's total revenue; the owners are offering 56.2 percent.

      "I won't come down," Upshaw said Thursday. "The players know that. Only the owners can make a proposal."

      That is unlikely to happen.

      "They have to make a fundamental change in their proposal in how they are defining their expectations for the players," Tagliabue said.

      Beyond the numbers is an issue that has divided the owners for two years: revenue sharing among the teams.

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      -03-02-2006, 12:28 PM
    • RamWraith
      Players, league hit wall in talks
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas

      The optimism of earlier this week has faded into a blunt reality for the National Football League in its hopes of extending its labor agreement.

      Negotiations broke off Tuesday, leaving the league and the NFL Players Association deadlocked. A special league meeting is planned for Thursday in New York, and league commissioner Paul Tagliabue told teams to prepare for the start of free agency Friday without a new deal.

      "We're deadlocked," Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the players association, told The Associated Press. "There's nowhere to go. There's no reason to continue meeting. We're too far apart on our economics, and too far apart on revenue sharing, and we'll go to the uncapped year. There won't be an extension."

      These words came just one day after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters that a new deal would be in place by the end of the week.

      Of course, there are still two days before the start of the free agency and trading period Friday. And a lot of agreements, in a lot of businesses, get done at the 11th hour.

      But for now, teams remain in a strange sort of limbo as they approach one of the busiest and most critical times of the year.

      "I don't like where we find ourselves," Atlanta general manager Rich McKay said over the weekend at the NFL scouting combine. "I find us really stuck in the mud. You really don't know which way this thing is going to go. ... It would be extremely difficult to operate without an extension. Extremely difficult."

      The current labor agreement doesn't expire until after the 2007 season. But the '07 season would be uncapped - meaning there would be no salary cap. Teams could spend as much - or as little - as they wanted, which would be a big advantage to big-market spenders such as Dallas' Jones or Washington owner Dan Snyder.

      The uncapped year was put into the current collective bargaining agreement as an incentive to owners to extend the labor contract before 2007.

      There are incentives to spur the players association to an agreement as well. For example, once the uncapped year is reached, the earliest players can qualify for unrestricted free agency is after six years of service instead of the current four years.

      On the Rams' roster, for example, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is scheduled for unrestricted free agency following the '06 season. But if '07 is an uncapped year, he would have to wait two more seasons.

      If the current free agency period starts without a labor agreement, some provisions are triggered in the bargaining agreement that neither players nor clubs would like. Foremost is the provision that signing bonus money can be pro-rated - or spread out - over a maximum of four years instead of the usual seven. This...
      -03-01-2006, 01:24 PM