With a little luck my coverage of the 2011 NFL lockout and the labor issues will soon be winding down and I can once again turn my full attention to dissecting the Miami Dolphins needs vs. what is available in free agency and beyond. For now, that is not the case because we simply don’t know who will be available and who won’t let alone when that new league year will start.
From the beginning I have made it very clear on this site and via Email exchanges with reps from the NFL trade association that I support 100 percent the owners in this dispute. That all being said, there is one issue now that I have little support on. The admission of NFL legal counsel Jeff Pash that the league will not lift the lockout until it is legally bound. In other words, a handshake agreement won’t be enough.
I understand the legal issues behind lifting the lockout without an iron clad deal in place that has been approved by both sides and upheld by the courts, but there is a lot of legal wrangling to continue long after a new CBA deal is in place and the problem there is that much of those legal tasks may not be completed until September. There is a very small window left to get the season underway and still be able to play a full schedule of games. Two teams are set to open their training camp in mid-July and they will be at a disadvantage if free agency doesn’t begin soon.
So while the owners and the Commissioner continue to talk with DeMaurice Smith who continues to tell the players that no deal is imminent, the balance to the start of the season is hanging in the wind. All that aside, what might be included in the next CBA and what might the NFL landscape look like after the “I’s” are dotted and the “T’s” are crossed? Let’s take a look.
The first change will be in the shared revenue generated by the league among the players. The players will likely take 48% of the revenue with some sort of “true-down” portion in case there is an economic downturn. In simple terms if the league makes more money the players will too and if the league loses a ton of money then the players may as well.
Rookie Wage Scale – The rookie wage scale is almost a foregone conclusion as both sides seem to be working towards fixing that broken system. While the players coming into the league won’t be happy, nor will their agents who make the most off those deals, eventually those rooks will be vets and the money that the league saves on the rooks will go to both the veterans and the retired players. How that scale breaks down is the question of contention as each position has a different dollar amount attached to it as does the drafting slot. A rookie wage scale of any kind with capped limits should make draft day trades much more common and easier to work.
Roster limits - The NFL currently limits rosters to 53 with 48 active on game day. That number will likely increase as part of the deal. To what number is unknown. Currently the league is considering training camp roster increases for this year from 80 – 90 given the lack of off-season. It’s likely that an overall and more permanent increase of the rosters will be negotiated as well.
Drug testing - There are some in Congress who are pushing for more stringent drug testing and the NFL is considering the possibility of using the same drug testing company that tests Olympic athletes. Either way a new CBA will likely include language that will put all testing for drugs in the hands of a 3rd party and another party, outside of the NFL, will hear appeals and render decisions.
Free agency - Players prior to last year were eligible for FA after 4 years unless their contracts stated otherwise. The NFL has adopted a staggered minimum and maximum years for first NFL contracts based on where a player was drafted. For example, a first round pick may not sign a deal for more than 5 years, second rounders I believe are four. Either way you get the idea. This new CBA agreement will likely not change that system.
NFL Games on Thursday night – The players know that their future worth in dollars hinges on the success of the NFL as a business whole. They also know that much of that money comes from broadcasting rights. The NFL currently has an 8 game season televised on NFL Network which generates no broadcasting fees. The players have asked that those games be opened up for bidding by other networks as either an 8 or full season package. Which would increase the money that the NFL makes and then 48% of that will go to the players. The players are also apparently pushing for at least one team to move to LA where the largest US market is without a local team.
Many more changes will be made but those above may be the ones that are seen more on the surface. One thing is for certain, regardless of when the NFL decides to unlock it’s doors, NFL teams will have to have some time to digest the new agreement in full before proceeding forward with signing players. So while the news on the surface continues to improve, we are still a long way away from actually having football back on the field.