The NFL owners' approval of the proposed CBA puts them in the lead in the court of public opinion, whether that's justified or not. Now it's up to the players to vote on a proposal in which the fans don't really care about the details that could hold up an agreement.
Under a new timeline for the NFL to get a belated start to the 2011 season, the Hall of Fame Game may be the only casualty of war. However, it may not end the problem.
From the public relations standpoint, the NFL owners signed off on a negotiated agreement unanimously – Crazy Al Davis
and his Raiders representative abstained from the vote on philosophical grounds (translation: he still believes the AFL is passing underground coded messages amongst its member teams in the rival NFL). It also frees him up to potentially turn on his own and sue the league … again. In a battle in which fans and former NFL players alike have found it difficult to back either side, the NFL came out with a flag of truce – if you can call a proposal they like in a $9 billion debate as a white flag. For the moment, the owners would appear to be the "good guys." No Florida jury would convict them of wrongdoing now.
Under the revised timetable provided by the NFL, team facilities would be available to players starting Saturday and at noon Central Wednesday, the 2011 league year would begin and free agency would start in earnest. The first week of preseason games would be played between Aug. 11-15 as scheduled, with the Hall of Fame Game (which no owners draws revenue from) being the only game sacrificed due to the lockout.
The major sticking point of the remainder of the negotiations is whether the players union wants to be a union. The owners have set a Tuesday deadline for the players to ratify an agreement – curious in that teams would be able to sign their own free agents and negotiate with rookies without a deal "officially" being done. These guys aren't amateurs.
Here's what we know so far about the agreement being approved by owners and offered to the players:
Players will receive 48 percent of all revenue – the billion-dollar-off-the-top drag off the pile won't fly anymore.
As part of the same portion of the deal, the players' share of the money taken in (which differs from revenue) will never dip below 46.5 percent, which means if the economy that has stagnated the housing market should ever move up the food chain high enough to impact the NFL, the players would take less of a hit than the owners. In good times, both prosper.
Owners will retain an "expense credit" that counts against the revenue-sharing portion to allow for stadium construction. It's a safe bet that at least a couple of "on the stump" legislators will suggest any future type of NFL G-4 funding come off the top of the state's cut of the stadium costs in Arden Hills.
A rookie wage scale will be imposed that will raise the salary for most picks, but cost the most among the top 10 prospects.
All contracts for rookies will be four years with a team option on a fifth year of a contract for first-round picks (the fifth year on a contract will be massive and only those who perform well enough to earn the fifth year will get it). However, it could serve as an "extra" franchise tag for those types of players.
Teams will retain one franchise tag and it can be used more than once on the same player.
The 18-game schedule is off the table until after the 2013 season. At that point, a new layer of NFL programming will become available as the league expands its Thursday night games from Thanksgiving to the end of the Week 16. Starting in 2014, that package will be bid out for the entire season – which could alter the face of Thursday night television – historically the most competitive battlefield among the major networks in prime time. Initially, the full Thursday schedule was proposed to be bid in 2012.
With anticipated revenue growth, the health benefits and pension plan are likely to appease former players who filed suit against the league to get their sliver of the pie.
Teams will be required to spend as close to the salary cap (realistic salary cap and "paper" salary cap). It is what is termed the "salary floor" – the least a team can spend and be within the rules. Nobody will be able to "get by on the cheap" – like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are expected to have $55 million in salary-cap room thanks to uncapped thrift … if the CBA is approved.
The onus now seems to be with the players. The longer it goes, the more the insipid "court of public opinion" may turn against the players. The media reaction for the last few days has been, "football is back." When they "locked out" players, the owners were the "bad guys." It looks like they're wearing the white cowboy hats now. Will the players keep their white hats or change them in? Stay tuned.
If the CBA is approved by players, Judge Susan Richard Nelson would sign off on the antitrust lawsuit that was brought by the players and issues like testing for human growth hormone, the league's personal conduct policy and player disability compensation to be collectively bargained under the supervision of the court if an agreement can't be reached.
Under the new salary cap formula, the salary cap will be $120 million. In 2009, the cap was $128 million, which is going to cause some cap problems for teams like the Vikings, who are projected to be $5 million over the salary cap, according to ESPN.
ESPN's John Clayton listed 10 players that, given the return of the salary cap, will likely have to get lopped in order for their teams to be competitive in the free-agent market. To nobody's surprise, Reggie Bush topped the list. He is scheduled to be paid $11.8 million and have a $16 million cap number if he stays. If he is cut, he will save the Saints $12.5 million against the salary cap. Who wouldn't get rid of him? So, who is No. 2 on the list? Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian. His cap number is a formidable $6.3 million and, if he's released, he would drop the Vikings cap debt from $5 million to $1.3 million just by letting him go. If the Vikings want to do any BCM (Brzezinski Cap Magic) to keep Sidney Rice, Berrian has to go. Even if Rice floats down the Mississippi to St. Louis, it may be in the team's best interests to still jettison Berrian.