CBA Negotiations Over Lunch

How much does the NFL adore their fans?  Well, if you listen to the players and the owners, they love ‘em a lot.  But that apparently don’t love or respect fans as much as they would outwardly say.  I mean, how much can you “love” your fans when you can only free yourself for one hour of CBA negotiations?  One hour?  That’s a lunch break.

NFL teams will often go out of their way to make their players accessible and give out perks of some kind to their fans for their “die-hard support“.  The Miami Dolphins are one of a few organizations who have made it a point to get fans more involved and entertained before the games.  But it’s rare that a team would go to those lengths.

Still you have to wonder just how important getting a deal done from either side is at this point.  Today, the NFL and their “representives” met with members of the NFLPA including a couple of player reps…for one hour.  That was all that was scheduled.  To give them at least a bit of credit, they went 14 minutes long…deduct that from the time clock!

There has been around 20-30 such “meetings” over the last 6 months but regardless, what could possibly be accomplished in one hour?  Regardless of the time of day.  Showboating?  Grandstanding?  Jerking around?  All 3?  The latter is more likely.

We on the outside don’t get to be fly’s on the wall and when the two sides leave a meeting like this and make no comments, we will not know what transpired inside.  For all that’s worth we can imagine them all playing a game of “Sorry Sliders”.  Afterall, at the rate this is going the game name would fit.

For fans, the thought of one uncapped year would be fine with them.  Dump the higher salaries free of charge and then implement an all new do over next season.  Will it happen? 

Here are some of my thoughts on what both sides can do to get this done.

1:  Quit grandstanding and talk.  The NFL owners want a reduction of 18% in player salaries and the players say no.  So, knock salaries down by 9 percent with 3 percent of the remaining going to retired players pention funds.  This puts the total around 15%.  The players give up 8 percent now and gain back 3 later.  The NFL owners are no longer shackled with high payouts to active players but do what’s right for the retired players.

2:  Revenue sharing:  This is nothing short of greed.  Jerry Jones buys the Cowboys and voila’ he realizes that the market for his team is so much more than that of say…the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Well duh!  Get off it.  Share the revenue with a slight reduction that gives more money to owners who have invested more money in more expensive teams, but still shares a good percentage with the lower level markets.  Remember, it’s the NFL not the Dallas Cowboys and all teams have a vote into what teams received franchises.  You bought the league makeup with votes.

3:  Rookie Salary Pool:  The NFL owners and fans want a reduction in the amount of money paid out to incoming NFL freshman.  The only ones who don’t want a reduction are the incoming players and their agents.  Oh, and of course their agents…did I already mention that.   The easiest way to reduce that incoming salary number is to give some of that money to the veterans.  How?  Actually it’s easy. 

The NFL could implement a salary cap exemption to teams taht keep veterans on their teams.  Consider the case of LaDainian Tomlinson.  Tomlinson could be kept on the Chargers squad because of his “vested” years of service and the Chargers could classify him as an exempt veteran.  They pay him out of an additional pool that is filled by money used from the reduction of rookie salaries.  He doesn’t cost money on the cap and the team doesn’t have to unload him.  It won’t work in all situations but it’s a negotiating start.  Putting that money saved from the rooks back into the pockets of the NFL players makes the most sense.  And the NFL owners can recoup some of that as well as not all of it has to go back into the NFLPA. 

Another idea would be to reduce the Rookie salary structures in the first 2 rounds and that percentage be immediately deducted from the 18% that the NFL owners are seeking.  Say a 3% reduction in rookies salaries equates to a give back of 3% by the NFLPA.  Allowing for negotiations to begin with 15% instead.

4:  Years accrued for free agency.  There hasn’t been much talk about players complaining of the years it takes them to become free agents.  But the fact that players can and are “Franchised” multiple times is a concern.  This is easily solved by the two sides agreeing that a player may only be franchised one time.  In the event that a long term deal can not be worked out, an “arbitration” style ruling can be made to determine if good faith toward that contract was done on both sides. 

5:  Operating and upkeep costs of stadiums:  Until recently no one knew that the NFL owners wanted the players to foot the bill for renovations to stadiums or at the very least give back some money so the owners wouldn’t have to flip it themselves.  Personally, I find this a joke and side with the players.  The players don’t go to the city and ask for money to build and let’s face it, do they really get anything out of extended parking areas and hiked prices?  Not really so why ask them to pay for it?

In reality, the work environment is the responsibility of the owners and while there are some concessions that can be made in other areas to help the owners with the rising costs of maintenence, it’s in those areas that should be addressed. 

On the owners side of this issue, the rise in costs regarding equipment and all the perks at the training facilities should be validated by some of what the owners are asking for in trimming down overall give back to the NFLPA.  For example that 18%.  Or, the NFL themselves who are making a ton of money should give back to the teams for this very purpose.  Perhaps the NFL should be helping solidify those stadiums…afterall…it’s their product.  But the players should not have to pay for work environment improvements unless it’s something specific they as a whole are asking for.

In all reality the entire CBA is nothing more than a grand show of peacocks displaying their feathers.  The players are getting plenty and the NFL owners are swinging a big stick.  But the reality is the NFL has never been stronger.  One hour negotiations isn’t going to fix the CBA or get either side closer to an agreement, but it will do one thing.  IT will continue to steer the sport towards a date next year that will lock0ut the league.  When that happens, the NFL will become what the NBA, NHL, and MLB are.  A league that doesn’t respect it’s fans enough to sit at a table and get it done. 

There is one thing that is 100 percent certain.  Neither the NFL nor the NFLPA are going to pack up and close down the NFL for good.  So why bother with all the brilliants plumes of color?  Just get it done.  It really is an easy process once the ego’s are left at the door and both sides open up to negotiating.

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