The NFL and the NFLPA are heading towards another possible disruption in 2013. Last season the two sides failed to agree on a new CBA that forced the owners to lockout the players. The players missed the entire off-season of workouts, free agency was a two week window that started days before training camp, and while the draft went on as scheduled, teams could not sign, negotiate with, or even meet the players they drafted.
Prepare for round 2.
First came the New Orleans Saints “bounty program”. The NFL failed to give the NFLPA full disclosure of their investigation leading NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith to begin complaining about compliance policies in the CBA. While the NFL has not reason to involve the NFLPA when sanctions are handed down to “non-players’, Roger Goodell is seeking further punishment for players that were directly involved and participated in the program. While this will not send teams back into what could be another lockout, it is adding tension to another issue at hand.
Last week New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft indicated that the 2013 salary cap will not jump in ceiling space as many believe. Next year the new contracts with the Networks will kick-in after negotiations and it was widely expected to push the salary cap ceiling to around 145 to 150 million. Kraft, who was a major negotiator in the CBA last season knows clearly what the CBA rules state…even those little fine print words at the bottom.
To believe Kraft you don’t have to look any further than this years cap which was expected to jump about 6 to 8 million from last years but after numbers were crunched off the last CBA, the salary cap only increased by about 600,000 dollars. To say the least, the NFLPA is not thrilled and after realizing that some of the numbers and language in the last CBA are now proving that they did in fact get a smaller size of the revenue pie, Smith is ready to bring the player reps back to the table.
The CBA had one option for an out clause similar to the one used by the owners to get out of the last dreadful CBA that was negotiated by then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. It gives either party the right to file a grievance against the other in court and have the negotiated CBA rendered obsolete. The window to do so however must be by the end of the 2012 calendar year and must go through the 8th Circuit Court where the NFLPA filed it’s lawsuit against the NFL.
As of today several NFL player reps have already voiced their support of ending the CBA in the hopes of getting a better deal ironed out before it’s taken back to courts. Primarily players are looking for the owners to re-work portions of the CBA that will guarantee them more increases over the year before regardless of the current formula that is being used.
D-Smith is set to use the current state of the “bounty program” investigation as leverage in these talks. The NFL has agreed to open their books and allow the NFLPA to review the investigation as they work towards a disciplinary plan for those players but it appears that Smith is more anxious to use this as an opportunity to place the blame on anyone but the players unless the league is willing to get back to the table to discuss changes to the CBA.
What is beginning now is the earthquake that could lead to a tsunami of NFL issues. With the deadline being February 28th of 2013, just before the start of the March free agent period, the two sides will need to act quickly as the NFLPA will begin legal preparations starting later this month after the draft. With the NFL off-season slowing to a snails pace after the draft, Smith is hoping that the two sides will commit to negotiations so that a work stoppage will not happen.
Under the last CBA, in section 158 sub-13 which can be read here, the NFL is prohibited from locking out the players but the players can still exit the CBA and strike. A strike prior to the start of the 2013 league year and thus free agency would be a disaster.
After speaking with a high ranking official with the New England Patriots who confirmed this, it’s a reason why many teams, possibly the Dolphins have taken to not overspending or guaranteeing contracts this off-season. It could also be a reason that the Dolphins have yet to re-negotiate any contracts beyond this season. In addition, if the NFL and the NFLPA do not reach a deal if that course is in fact taken, the NFL Draft will no longer exist following this months 2012 draft which could be why Daniel Snyder had no problem sending future draft picks to St. Louis for the rights to the second overall pick.
We will have more as this develops over the next week.