CBA, Alexander Scenarios Nearing Resolution?

As the deadline for the current CBA talks comes into view, it appears that the league and the union may be on the verge of an accord. If that is the case, it's also very possible that the Seahawks could follow that announcement with one of their own - their MVP is home to stay.

Gary Myers of the New York Daily News reported on Sunday morning that the Seattle Seahawks and running back Shaun Alexander are close to agreeing on the parameters of a long-term contract. According to Myers, the Seahawks are offering somewhere between $12-15 million in guaranteed money, which would rate with the most lucrative running back contracts in NFL history.

A league source had previously told Seahawks.NET that Alexander and his agent, Jim Steiner, were looking for a wage on the scale of San Diego Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson – Tomlinson signed an 8-year, $60 million contract in 2004 with a $12.4 million signing bonus. Other high running back contracts of recent vintage include Washington's Clinton Portis, who got $60 million over eight years with a $17-million signing bonus, and New Orleans’ Deuce McAllister, who snagged $50 million over eight years with a $12.5-million signing bonus.

Currently, the highest signing bonuses on the Seattle team are Grant Wistrom’s $14 million, Matt Hasselbeck’s $16 million and Walter Jones’ $16 million. Wistrom’s contract was signed in 2004, while Hasselbeck and Jones re-upped with the team before the 2005 season.

Alexander, the 2005 NFL MVP, drove the Seahawks to a Super Bowl XL appearance with 1,880 yards rushing on 370 carries for a 5.1 yards-per-carry average. He also scored an NFL record 28 regular season touchdowns.

There’s no doubt that the progress of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks will factor heavily into this story – an Alexander signing without a CBA extension would be “shocking”, according to the aforementioned source. The current deadline for the ratification of that extension is Monday, March 6, at 12:01 AM EST.

And on the subject of labor talks, a report by the Washington Post's Mark Maske indicates that after a lot of “doom and-gloom” talk last night when talks broke off, the league and the union may be close to the deal everyone has been playing for – the deal which would allow an extention of the CBA. In an e-mail referred to in Maske’s report, union head Gene Upshaw said that the sides are "now in the area where we will get a deal. I think it may be there. It comes down to a few final points."

However, there are still hurdles. Yesterday, reports indicated that the owners increased the percentage of total revenue they would allow the players to receive from 56.2 percent to 58.2 percent. While Upshaw had previously said that he needed a number “above sixty”, it would certainly be feasible to imagine his climbing down from that tree.

From there, the primary issue becomes how that money is spent. A ratification of the CBA extension would increase the 2006 salary cap from its current $94.5 million to somewhere in the neighborhood in $105 million, according to many reports. The owners of lower-revenue teams are concerned that they will have to pay a much higher percentage of their earnings to the players than the “fat cats”, and some could not afford the increased personnel expenses.

The owners of high-revenue teams, like Dallas’ Jerry Jones and Washington’s Daniel Snyder, may be willing to compromise with the “cash over cap” provision – a proposed clause in the new CBA that would restrict and mandate how signing bonuses are paid over time.

Revenue sharing is the larger and more complicated issue here, and it’s not one that’s likely to be settled on the heels of current talks. Owners have said that a new agreement can be reached without drastic modifications to the revenue sharing model. The "cash-over-cap" provison would seem to be the bridge that gets everyone from here to there.

In any event, it appears that the on-again/off-again nature of these talks is now very much on. After looking into the abyss of uncapped years, lockouts and fiscal anarchy after so many years of labor peace and mutual prosperity, all involved may be ready to agree that it’s not necessary to get hit by a car to know how much it hurts.

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