You are faced with a deadline. March 3rd is supposed to kick off the 2011 NFL new year but you don’t have a labor agreement in place because three years ago you opted out of the last one because for you, it sucked. Now, facing the uncertainty of millions of lost revenue by not having an off-season you contemplate staging a lock-out to get the players union to cave and do a deal that will continue things forward and put more money in your pocket but potentially not their’s.
Another NFL owner calls you up and says, “Hey Joe, we just took a vote and your going to negotiate the new CBA”. Sucks to be you. Now you have millions of NFL fans, 31 other owners, and thousands of football players in the NFL and college suddenly hanging on what you will propose to the NFLPA to get this deal done in what amounts a little more than 30 days.
How are you going to fix the CBA?
In reality, this has to be what it feels like for the owners and the players union. The untimely death of former NFLPA Union head Gene Upshaw put De’Maurice Smith behind the drivers seat of the union. Don’t think for a minute that he will not do everything he can to thump his chest enough to show that the players didn’t make a mistake hiring him. On the other side of that coin is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who inherited the NFL from former “C” Paul Tagliabue who was responsible for the last CBA that every owner opted out of.
Smith vs. Goodell. Both first timers at this and both with a lot at stake in their professional careers.
But at the heart of this issue are the players, the owners, and the fans. Who don’t have a voice at all.
So what would you do to fix it?
The owners took a bath in the amount of money they dolled out to the players, thus reducing their profit margins. The economy of course doesn’t help. Nor do guaranteed salaries generated by the NFL agent reps. Who by the way are talking with their players to not accept a reduction in pay (money out of their pockets). The owners also want the players to pay for portions of stadium renovations and field maintenance as well. Is that fair? Do you pay for the office upgrades at your job?
The first thing I would do is tell the NFLPA that under no circumstance will we start talking, ever, until a rookie salary scale is in place that dramatically reduces the amount of pay that first rounders make over the lifetime of their contracts. I would seek at minimum a 25 to 30 percent reduction in that salary per draft slot. In return, I would offer up two things. One, that the guaranteed portions of a contract will not exceed 25 percent of the overall deal and that if a player is no longer on a roster in 2 years after being drafted that the salary does not count against that teams salary cap with no escalations. 2: I would offer to put 15 to 18 percent of that reduction into either the NFL retirements benefit packages OR into veteran salaries who have more than 4 years with a team.
I would also offer to have a roster exemption for players who have over 10 years of service with one team. This would allow teams to not cut or trade players like Zach Thomas who have done their time and now are simply cap casualties for no other reason. A non-rostered active spot for those players would give incentives on both sides to keep players longer with non-accountable salaries in those “twilight” years.
Those two issues should easily be accepted by the NFLPA as they are still seeing the money for the veteran proven players in the amounts of 15 to 18 percent depending on how they choose to distribute it. The owners are seeking an 18 percent reduction in player’s shares of profit. In other words, if a salary cap is 100 million it will still remain 100 million, the owners are not asking for an 18 percent reduction. They are asking for a reduction in the sharing of profits that are turned over on top of that 100 million. This is something that should be reduced to around 13 to 14 percent. The owners take some money back but in return they ask for an 18 game schedule and that would then reduce the amount from 14 to around 8 or 9 with that extra profit margin being paid back to the NFL.
There are a lot more issues on the table that need to be dealt with but when it comes down to it, money on both sides is what drives this issue and that is something that can be taken care of quickly and fairly by both sides being willing to give up and give in to certain accommodations. The owners have reportedly been willing to turn over some of their percentages to vested veterans and retirees. Oddly it’s the union that seems to have balked at that as they want money for the players up front, the ones that usually don’t last long enough in the league to make it matter.
What would you do?