You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
The Redskins are the NFL franchise that has the most to lose should a CBA extension not go through, at least in the short term. They set up their contract structure for this season with the expectation that—some would say irresponsibly gambling that—a new CBA would be in place for the season. While it appears that the Redskins will be able to keep most of their starters if massive cuts need to take place they will have to replace upwards of a dozen special teamers, role players and backups with rookies making the minimum salary. Anything approaching a major free agent acquisition would be out of the question. (for more details on the pending "cap-tastrophy", go here).
Redskins Nation took a collective deep breath, albeit a tentative one, this weekend as news of a potential collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA and the league spread through the media. Now, the breathing easy has turned to gasping in fear as word has come out on Tuesday that Upshaw said that he was not going to participate in a negotiating sessions scheduled for Wednesday because, basically, there was no point in doing so.
"We're deadlocked. There's nowhere to go," Upshaw said. "There's no reason to continue meeting. . .We're too far apart on our economics and too far apart on revenue sharing -- the ball is in their court. We'll go to the uncapped year, there won't be an extension."
In response to that that, the NFL is preparing to issue a statement that the owners will meet later this week not to discuss revenue sharing but to explain why the players' demands are out of line and that the league year would start as scheduled on Friday.
These moves are negotiating ploys, to be sure. Walking away from the table, as Upshaw is doing, is a tried and true tactic in such situations. Ditto for a statement by management saying that it's all over.
Lines are being drawn in the sand. But they are indeed in sand, able to be erased and redrawn at a moment's notice. Remember in the middle of February when Upshaw proclaimed that the drop-dead date for having an agreement done was last Friday, February 24? That date came and went and nothing dropped dead. Certainly, Tagliabue's Wednesday 4 PM deadline for getting something done has more teeth to it since it's so close to the Friday start of the free agency period, but moving it another 24 hours wouldn't violate any federal laws or anything.
And, make no mistake about it, talks are ongoing, just not between the two sides. At this moment, Tagliabue is asking each of the owners, "Do we really want it to come to this?" Upshaw is asking the same thing of key player reps.
There is also the theory floating out there that this is all a choreographed dance between Tagliabue and Upshaw designed to scare the two sides in the revenue-sharing debate to finding a compromise that they can all swallow. Dan Snyder must be petrified looking at needing to either cut or renegotiate with almost half of his roster this year and needing to accomplish this in a little over 48 hours. The small-market owners are equally queasy about Snyder and other higher-revenue owners buying up the available players in an uncapped 2007.
There's nothing like staring at the abyss of cap hell to bring a man to his senses. Ditto for looking at a lifetime of being eliminated from playoff contention shortly after Halloween.
It can be done, but that is a long way from saying that it will be done. The advice here to Redskins fans is to do what Snyder, Joe Gibbs and the rest of the Redskins organization is undoubtedly doing:
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.