Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

NFL Heads Toward Labor Showdown

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • NFL Heads Toward Labor Showdown

    Jan 26, 12:48 PM EST

    NFL heads toward labor showdown

    By BARRY WILNER
    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 a better and healthier game for fans."

    The alternative?

    A work stoppage similar to 1982 and 1987, when the union went on strike. Under labor law, the union has the right to strike and management has the right to lock out.

    "Our focus is on getting a deal and we will have a deal," Pash says. "The only question is when."

    For most of those years since the two sides reached the contract that brought the current free agency and salary cap system, mention of an uncapped season was heresy.

    Now, it's nearly upon us. It would mean:

    - Players would need six years in the league before becoming unrestricted free agents rather than four. Some veterans with less than six years in the league would become restricted free agents, meaning their current club will have the right to match an offer or be compensated for losing them.

    - Each club already has one transition player tag and would get a second. A transition player must be offered at least the average of the top 10 salaries for his position during the previous season, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater.

    - The eight clubs that made the divisional playoff round this year will have limits on signing unrestricted free agents under what's called the Final Eight Plan.

    - The 32 teams would be relieved of their obligation to fund numerous player benefit programs, including 401Ks, player annuity, severance pay, and tuition assistance. That would be a reduction of more than $7 million per club.

    - A supplemental revenue-sharing plan will be scrapped by the league, which says about $100 million is involved; the union claims it's closer to $200 million. That's not a huge sum in the scheme of NFL finances, but would still hurt clubs on the financial bottom rung.

    - There would be no salary floor or salary ceiling. In 2009, the cap was $128 million and the floor was $111 million.

    "I think the fans will see a different system with no limit on the high end or the low end, and on what teams can spend," says Falcons president Rich McKay. "Each team will have to decide how they will operate."

    Does that mean the NFL salary structure will resemble baseball's rich get richer-poor get poorer model - at least for one year?

    No, says Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based consulting company Sports Corp. Ltd.

    "It won't happen, at least now, because of the competitive balance rules that are in effect during the uncapped year," Ganis says. "You will not see a baseball type of hoarding of the all-stars occur in the NFL, certainly not this coming season."

    For one thing, the crop of players available won't be as substantial as in previous, capped seasons, with the likes of Shawne Merriman, Miles Austin, Elvis Dumervil, Owen Daniels, Brandon Marshall and DeMeco Ryans now becoming restricted free agents. And, as Mawae notes, if NFL owners are looking to save money on player costs, here's their opportunity.

    Agent Tom Condon, who counts both Manning and Saints quarterback Drew Brees among his clients, agrees that that, overall, less money will be available.

    "The market has been gutted from not only a large number of players being unrestricted, but some high quality players," Condon says. "There is the Final Eight Plan ... taking 25 percent of the teams and having them not participating totally in free agency.

    "Over the past three years, 90 percent or so of the NFL teams have not, on average, spent up to the salary cap. Now you have no floor, so you have teams that were required to spend to the floor who don't have to participate or can participate on a lower level. I think you may see teams on selected players spend a lot of money and have a lot less participation overall than usual."

    Which also might lead to no bidding wars when free agency begins March 5, or to only a few teams participating for a minimum number of free agents.

    That's good news for the low-income teams. With no minimum team salary, no longer are small-market franchises going to be forced to spend close to what every else does. Instead, they will spend what they can afford.

    "That is the big issue here," Ganis says. "The NFL has had a mandate through its CBA where they force teams to pay beyond their means - some of these owners are not making money. This last CBA was so unbalanced that you have a meaningful number of teams that in any given year could be on the negative side on a cash basis."

    Probably not so in 2010.

    And in 2011? Well, ever since DeMaurice Smith was elected NFL Players Association executive director in March, the players have been warned to prepare for a moment when the league stopped playing.

    "Until we sign a deal, we have a responsibility to the players of the NFL to provide them with the best counsel for how to prepare for the worst," says George Atallah, Smith's top assistant. "From our perspective, we want a deal before the uncapped year to avoid any unintended consequences to hurt the overall product."

    But time rapidly is running out, and it's a brave new world the NFL appears to be entering. Condon warns that what comes beyond 2010 is even more critical for the sport than what occurs this year.

    "An uncapped season is not as important as what happens after that," he says. "A lockout or decertification by the union? Nobody really knows."

  • #2
    Re: NFL Heads Toward Labor Showdown

    I'm hoping we'll see an eleventh hour deal sort of like the last time. If I recall correctly, they actually pushed back the start of free agency that year. The owners have to know that they're not going to be able to get a 20% reduction, but the players know they've had it good and are probably going to make some kind of compromise.

    Personally, I'd advocate a change to the rookie pay as a compromise. The players would agree to a lowering of the cap commiserate with the reduction of rookie salaries produced with the introduction of a slotting system. The players currently negotiating the deal don't feel the brunt of the pay reduction in the short-term, and in the long-term it would re-balance spending in favor of veterans who have earned it.

    Of course, the owners would have to give up something, too, so maybe they would agree to reforms in long-term player health insurance, since there's already some public pressure to do something about that anyway.

    Comment

    Related Topics

    Collapse

    • MauiRam
      Labor cloud rolls in over salary cap's final season ..
      by MauiRam
      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...
      -09-09-2009, 08:40 AM
    • RamWraith
      Players, league hit wall in talks
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      02/28/2006

      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
    • RamWraith
      Alarming labor strife is not end of world
      by RamWraith
      By Bernie Miklasz
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      03/02/2006



      Much to our surprise, another day came and went and the sky did not fall on top of NFL stadiums. The only ominous rumble was more of a squeak, emitting from the voice of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

      "The situation is about as dire as dire can be," Tagliabue said Thursday morning.

      Chilling words.

      Amazingly, the Edward Jones Dome is still standing.

      And by late Thursday afternoon, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to extend its deadline for free agency by three days. This cool-down pause also gave the two sides another opportunity, if desired, to reopen negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

      Perhaps Tagliabue and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw will settle their differences this weekend. That's a longshot. But either way, please be wary of the voices of doom out there, predicting the end of the NFL as we know it.

      The NFL always has had a heightened sense of drama. After all, this is the only professional sports league with its own film-making division. And it's been a while (1987) since we've witnessed genuine labor discord in the NFL.

      So when Tagliabue and Upshaw broke the glass on a few alarm boxes, we saw an almost universal overreaction to their impasse. Granted, Tagliabue and Upshaw have gotten along so famously through the years it's surprising to see them acting like Bud Selig and Don Fehr, or Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow.

      Upshaw and Tagliabue have managed to avoid dueling since Tagliabue became the commish in 1989, but a clash was inevitable, because the NFL's pile of money has reached enormous proportions. With so much at stake, Tagliabue and Upshaw aren't above old-fashioned, sports-labor posturing.

      But this is no Armageddon. We didn't even have the "Bloody Thursday" crisis as predicted by hysterical NFL pundits who had fans convinced that dozens of veteran players would be rounded up, placed on waivers and thrown off the side of a cliff into a river so NFL owners could save salary-cap dollars.

      The reality is, the Rams and the 31 other NFL franchises are open for business. And a full schedule of NFL games will be played in 2006 and 2007. And after the 2007 season, the current bargaining agreement will expire. That's right: the owners and the players have two years to close the gap on a new CBA before the NFL is thrown into a true crisis.

      In the meantime, owners will continue to pull in astronomical amounts of revenue, players will continue to receive astoundingly generous paychecks, and the fans will continue to enrich both sides by enjoying the nation's most popular spectator sport.

      The only thing that will change between now and the end of the 2007 season is accounting.

      Unless Taglaibue and...
      -03-03-2006, 05:22 AM
    • MauiRam
      Owners, players face two issues ..
      by MauiRam
      NEW YORK (AP)

      A rookie wage scale and free agency for veterans appear to be the biggest stumbling blocks to ending the NFL lockout.

      Mark Sanchez
      LABOR WOES


      Several people with knowledge of the talks tell The Associated Press that such key issues as splitting total revenues - the major reason for the dispute - the salary cap, fewer offseason workouts and the length of a new collective bargaining agreement are close to being completed.

      The people spoke anonymously because details are supposed to remain private.

      Owners and players are to meet again, beginning Tuesday, after two days of long negotiations last week. Lawyers from both sides are to meet Monday.

      The sticky topics include limits on rookie salaries and signing bonuses. Another is the number of transition tags for free agents, with right of first refusal.

      With training camps scheduled to open in less than two weeks for some teams, time is growing short to reach an agreement to end the nearly four-month lockout without a disruption to the preseason. With court-appointed mediator Arthur Boylan on vacation this week, the two sides plan to negotiate in New York, where last Friday talks were slowed by differences over the rookie wage scale and guidelines for unrestricted free agents.

      NFL owners have long sought to restrict the huge bonuses and salaries paid to unproven rookies, particularly those selected high in the draft. Quarterback Sam Bradford, the 2010 top overall pick by St. Louis, signed a six-year, $78 million contract that included a record $50 million in guaranteed money.

      The NFLPA insists that money diverted from the rookies go to veteran players; some also would go for retired players' benefits. The main disagreement right now is how deep into the first round the rookie wage scale would apply, perhaps eight picks, perhaps twice that many. Some owners also are seeking longer contracts for rookies.

      In addition, the owners are pushing for more restrictions in free agency, which the players ''vehemently oppose,'' one of the people familiar with the negotiations said.

      ''Maybe for one year there might be an extended right of first refusal as a compromise,'' the person said.

      Would either side hold up a deal over that, especially with the possibility of lost exhibition games no longer remote? NFL revenues would be reduced by upward of $60 million for one weekend of canceled preseason games. The first full weekend of exhibition play is Aug. 11-15; the Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams is Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio.

      Who pays how much to a so-called ''legacy fund'' to help retired players has become somewhat contentious. Originally, the funding was to be 50-50 between the owners and the players. There has been no agreement yet on that breakdown.

      ...
      -07-11-2011, 10:30 AM
    • Rambos
      Thank God we are under the cap.
      by Rambos
      By Len Pasquarelli
      ESPN.com

      Most fans couldn't care less about the collective bargaining agreement and, justifiable or not, view any discussions of negotiations aimed at extending labor peace through the 2013 season as just another example of the avaricious nature of already overpaid players.
      By Thursday, however, when the real-world ramifications of the failed labor talks become more apparent, fans in a lot of NFL precincts will take notice. With negotiations toward an extension having broken off Tuesday afternoon -- despite earlier optimistic reports that the sides were poised to strike an agreement -- salary cap managers from several franchises are readying themselves for what one general manager suggested late Tuesday will come to be known as "Bloody Thursday."
      Translation: Because so many teams are up against the projected cap limit of $95 million to $96 million for 2006, and the lack of a CBA extension means there are few options for relief, some big-name players will be jettisoned by Thursday, when teams must be in compliance with the spending limit.
      "In past years, you'd see a lot of guys released who maybe still had some name value, but who were really in decline in terms of production," said one AFC team executive who was working late Tuesday, trying to figure out how to pare down a prohibitively bloated cap figure. "This year? People are going to be stunned -- not just by the quantity of players who are cut by Thursday, but by the quality, too. It's going to be ugly. There's going to be blood in the streets and, compared to past years, it's going to be from some bluebloods, guys who can still play."
      For a few hours into Tuesday night, after word broke that NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw had departed league offices in Manhattan and headed back to Washington -- after declaring the negotiations hopelessly deadlocked -- there was a sense that the union chief was undertaking one last bit of posturing. As the evening wore on, though, it became increasingly obvious that Upshaw and the league were not just practicing brinksmanship, and that the NFL could instead be poised on the brink of disaster.


      The word most often used by teams' staffers, the people charged with crunching the salary cap numbers, and who clearly had bought into the notion that a CBA extension would be struck: stunned.
      Said one cap manager: "For months, my owner told me to develop two strategies, one with [an extension] and one without. But nobody, even with all the gloom-and-doom talk of the last few weeks, ever really believed we'd be breaking out 'Plan B.' And then, these last few days, even my owner was telling me he thought it would get done. Unless there's some kind of miracle on Wednesday, our team is going to have to do some drastic things, and I know we're not the only team in that situation."
      How drastic? There...
      -03-01-2006, 07:35 AM
    Working...
    X