Labor squabble won't cook golden goose

The purists may not like it, but PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence has a solution that will give both sides the money they desire and provide the financial safeguards teams like the small-market Packers need.

Relax.

The NFL's decision to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday — leading to the possibility of 2010 being an uncapped year and a possible lockout of the players at that point — isn't the end of the football world.

There are "poison pills" on both ends of the argument. For the teams, it's the loss of the salary cap and the corresponding lack of financial certainty. For the league itself, it's the probability fiscal imbalance would ruin the NFL's hallmark parity.

For the players, they wouldn't be allowed to become free agents until after their sixth season rather than after their fourth.

Thus, opting out of the CBA is fraught with perils on both sides of the equation.

Why on earth would the CBA be written in such a lose-lose fashion? Easy. It's meant to bring the sides to the negotiating table.

The teams say the players are getting too big a chunk of the financial pie. Since the owners opted out of the CBA for that reason — the vote was 32-0, including Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy — they won't agree to a new deal unless the equation swings back in their favor.

The players, of course, won't want to give back a penny. Why vote to cut your own salary in a business in which everyone's making money?

So, what seems like a game of chicken is heading in one direction: a longer regular season. By adding one or even two regular-season games, both sides — and even the fans ... hooray, more football! — will get what they want.

More regular-season games means more revenue from ticket sales and TV contracts. With that extra money, the players can take a smaller percentage of the money yet not lose a dollar.

The salary cap will return, which is a necessity for small-market teams like the Packers, who have limited income streams. And maybe even something will be done to rein in rookie salaries, with assurances the extra money must go to the veterans by adding a salary basement to the salary cap.

So, don't sweat the financial armageddon that some will say is coming and is flooding many Internet message boards. The NFL and the union have two years to hammer out a new deal. Judging by the prosperity and popularity of the league, both sides are too smart to kill the goose that has laid so many golden eggs.

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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