When NFL owners gather in California this morning for the annual spring meetings, the labor situation in the NFL will be front and center. It could set the stage for the future negotiations between the league and its players union.
The annual NFL owners meetings begin today in Dana Point, Calif. and, while several topics will be discussed, the one that will almost surely garner the most discussion will be the disposition of the Collective Bargaining Agreement the league has with its players association.
Last year, the owners voted 30-2 to opt out of the current CBA, citing that the sharing of revenues between the league and players doesn't properly take into account the cost borne by owners to build and maintain stadiums. When the current deal went into effect in March 2006, the start of free agency was delayed twice as owners and the players union hammered out a new agreement that would avoid having an uncapped year in 2007 that many believed would result in the end of the salary cap and a potential lockout in 2008. By making the decision to abandon the current CBA, if a new agreement isn't reached by the start of next year's free agency, 2010 will be an uncapped season and the potential for a lockout in 2011 grows by the day.
Given the difficult economic climate facing the entire country, even the NFL is not immune from feeling the pinch. The league and many of its member teams have cut back on personnel and the general feeling is that it will be required to do some belt-tightening to weather the economic storm.
Although nothing concrete is expected to come out of the owners meetings concerning the future of the CBA and the salary cap, one thing that might come from the meetings is the mood of ownership. If the owners are prepared to draw a line in the sand, it could be bad news for not just players and owners, but the fans as well.
The numbers are in on Cedric Griffin's new contract. It is being reported as a five-year, $25 million deal with $10 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN. Those are pretty significant numbers, but not out of line with the average price for a starting cornerback in the NFL.
One of the more interesting topics to potentially be discussed at the owners meetings is a proposal that could move the draft from late April to late February, prior to the start of free agency. Under the proposed change, the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game would be moved to early February following the Super Bowl. This would have a multi-pronged effect. It would put even more emphasis on the Combine and all-star game workouts, would force teams to depend more on scouting staffs in player evaluation and minimize that of head coaches and would greatly affect free agency because teams would be reversing the trend of addressing needs first with the veteran free-agent market before going after young talent in the draft. Expect the NFLPA to be against such a plan, since it could greatly effect how teams address free agency if they know they can roll the dice in the draft first.
The potential competition for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler seems to be focused on the Jets right now. The team made a big splash last year by signing Brett Favre to handle their quarterback position, but with Favre retired (for now), the Jets may have the inside track if the Broncos are insistent on trading their unhappy QB.