Finally the NFL Lockout is Over by Lloyd Vance

Both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith were both all smiles on Monday July 25th.  After 135 Days, the NFL Lockout is finally over and America’s Most Popular Game can leave the courtroom and return to the field

Today, NFL player representatives and the league’s owners signed a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) to end a lockout that had started in March shortly after the Packers’ Super Bowl victory and threatened to harm part of  — if not all of the — 2011 season. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looked relieved while saying, “Football’s back!”.  Goodell added “(The new 10-year deal) is extraordinarily great for our game.”  Of course, fans had heard Goodell say similar words after the owners agreed (31-0) on Friday, but everything wasn’t done until the players had their say.  Finally an 11 AM conference call where the new deal was agreed to by the league’s players really did bring back football to a starving public, who wouldn’t know what to do without “America’s Passion”.

Terms were not immediately specified, however NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith — still need to re-certify the organization, but that is topic for another day — also seemed to beaming just as much as Goodell.  Smith said of the new deal, which included a legacy fund for retiree, safety issues, and much more.  “We managed to talk about things that make football better and safer.”

According to the NFL, some of the highlights in the agreement included:

  • New rookie compensation system with a salary cap of $142.4 million per club in 2011 
  •  Additional retirement benefits
  • The limiting of practice times and full-contact practices.
  • Clubs receiving actual stadium investment and up to 1.5% of revenue each year.
  • Medical plan for life for players, under the owners’ plan.
  • Enhanced injury protection benefit of up to $1 million of a player’s salary for the year after his injury and up to $500,000 in the second year after his injury.

Colts’ center and player representative Jeff Saturday, who was at the forefront of the negotiations said, “The lockout has been a roller coaster for the fans.  With dialogue, things began to happen and …now instead of these meeting rooms, I get to be in football meeting rooms (at training camp).”

Now, the attention of everyone in NFL Universe from the players to team GM’s to the  media to Fantasy Football players will now return to the league’s quickened calendar.  Training Camps will shortly open (probably Wednesday) and Free Agency will also begin at a furious pace.

So now everyone can put away all the legal talk and focus on getting ready for September 8th in Green Bay, Wisconsin when the season offically kicks off with the Super Bowl Champion Packers taking on the New Orleans Saints.

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NFL CBA Negotiations to Continue Past Deadline

The respective sides of in the NFL’s Labor Battle (Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith) have agreed to extend Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations past the March 3rd, 11:59 PM Deadline

All anyone needs to do is go back and do some research from the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike – the last labor strife in the league which led to the owners playing “regular season” games with replacement players – to see the damage that labor unrest caused to the league and it’s fans.  There is no doubt that the NFL is the “Golden Goose” of sports with a model that produced approximately $9 Billion in revenues for 2009 and an unprecedented almost 25 years of uninterrupted play. 

The two sides involved, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA DeMaurice Smith, have been in talks since the start of the 2011 season, but there has been little movement.  There are so many negotiating issues around the NFL’s new CBA with the tip of the iceberg including:

Revenues — NFL owners are saying players are taking 60% of revenues, Smith is saying the owners want an 18% rollback on player revenues in the new CBA and the NFLPA is insisting that the league open the books. 

An owners’ proposed 18-game regular season schedule — Mostly supported by the owners, there are already many veteran players talking about long-term risks.  The NFLPA and it’s players are commissioning reports to see about the long-term health/injury risks from playing an 18-game regular season – 16 game schedule since 1978.  Let me go on record that I completely agree with getting rid of 1 or 2 preseason games.  But you know the players will definitely need extra incentives to approve more games. Patriots QB Tom Brady recently said of the 18-game proposal, “I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care. Our Union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game and the fans.”

Retirement Benefits — Led by a very loud contingent of former players, including HOF Joe DeLamiellure, NFL retirees want to be heard regarding health benefits and pensions.  Every current NFL player better be thinking about life after football as the average NFL career is 3 to 4 years and a player that has accrued 3 years of play receives only 5 years of health benefits after their retirement.

A Rookie Wage Scale – Something has to be done to make sure that “proven” NFL players are getting larger pieces of the pie than unproven rookies.  All anyone needs to do is look at the $39M that JaMarcus Russell basically stole from the Raiders.  This year, first overall pick, the Rams QB Sam Bradford, is expected to receive a contract greater than Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s – 6 years, $72M with $41.75M guaranteed.

FIGURE IT OUT GUYS as NFL fans don’t want to see a season lost, because a bunch of Billionaires and Millionaires cannot agree.

 BTW:  Anyone worried about seeing NFL replacement games, like during the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike, you don’t have worry as the current CBA does not allow the owners to play “Scab” games.

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – CBA Negotiations

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith are the principal figures in the ongoing NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations

The impending end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) slated for March 2011 should be first and foremost in everyone’s minds associated with the NFL.  Right now the league is in the midst of its first “uncapped” season in 2010, but that will be a hill of beans, if there is an NFL owners’ lockout in 2011 – i.e. “No Football”. 

All anyone needs to do is go back and do some research from the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike – the last labor strife in the league which led to the owners playing “regular season” games with replacement players – to see the damage that labor unrest caused to the league and it’s fans.  There is no doubt that the NFL is the “Golden Goose” of sports with a model that produced approximately $9 Billion in revenues for 2009 and an unprecedented almost 25 years of uninterrupted play. 

The two sides involved, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA DeMaurice Smith, have begun talks but everything is very preliminary at this time.  There are so many negotiating issues around the NFL’s new CBA with the tip of the iceberg including:

Revenues — NFL owners are saying players are taking 60% of revenues, Smith is saying the owners want an 18% rollback on player revenues in the new CBA and the NFLPA is insisting that the league open the books. 

NFLPA talking about possible owner collusion — The owners are pointing to the 30% rule, but overall player salaries for 2010 are lower and it has been a very slow offseason for signing free agents / giving out big deals. Also owners will not say it, but they do not want to pay a signing bonus on new player deals which could potentially cover lost salary during a lockout – did you know the owners TV money for 2011 is guaranteed.  That is why future Hall of Famer and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is in the last year of his 2004 contract extension – 7 years, $99.2M with a $34.5M signing bonus (due $15.8M in 2010), has not received a new deal yet.  Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady are expected to get new contracts with at least $50 million guaranteed. Is something up??? Recently on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike Show, DeMaurice Smith said, “You guys want me to say the collusion word, of course….Oh, wait a minute. There it goes.”

An owners’ proposed 18-game regular season schedule — Mostly supported by the owners, there are already many veteran players talking about long-term risks.  The NFLPA and it’s players are commissioning reports to see about the long-term health/injury risks from playing an 18-game regular season – 16 game schedule since 1978.  Let me go on record that I completely agree with getting rid of 1 or 2 preseason games.  But you know the players will definitely need extra incentives to approve more games. Patriots QB Tom Brady recently said of the 18-game proposal, “I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care. Our Union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game and the fans.”

Retirement Benefits — Led by a very loud contingent of former players, including HOF Joe DeLamiellure, NFL retirees want to be heard regarding health benefits and pensions.  Every current NFL player better be thinking about life after football as the average NFL career is 3 to 4 years and a player that has accrued 3 years of play receives only 5 years of health benefits after their retirement.

A possible Rookie Wage Scale – Something has to be done to make sure that “proven” NFL players are getting larger pieces of the pie than unproven rookies.  All anyone needs to do is look at the $39M that JaMarcus Russell basically stole from the Raiders.  This year, first overall pick, the Rams QB Sam Bradford, is expected to receive a contract greater than Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s – 6 years, $72M with $41.75M guaranteed.

Player Misconduct Administration — Goodell has a ton of leeway under the current CBA to administer justice as he sees fit and some member of the NFLPA want to look into the “legality” of some of the commissioner’s decisions.  Owners are also talking tough about going after bonuses already paid, if a player screws-up.

Drug Testing — NFL currently doesn’t test for the performing enhancing drug Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as it requires blood.  And the NFL also needs to think about testing for codeine (i.e. the “Sizzurp”) after the recent events with the Packers DL Johnny Jolly and former Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell.

Roger Goodell recently said of the CBA negotiations, “There will be an agreement at some point…Everyone would like it sooner rather than later, whether it’s the players, the owners or the fans.  It’s important for us all to get more productive dialogue. Sometimes, these things don’t happen until you get a little closer to the end (of the CBA). That’s just the reality.”

DeMaurice Smith also has been on the offensive lately too.  He recently said on ESPN Radio about the on-going CBA negotiations, “As you guys know, we haven’t been shy about being aggressive in protecting players’ rights. If we have to be aggressive to enforce the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you can bet that we will.”

FIGURE IT OUT GUYS as NFL fans don’t want to see a season lost, because a bunch of Billionaires and Millionaires cannot agree.

 BTW:  Anyone worried about seeing NFL replacement games, like during the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike, you don’t have worry as the current CBA does not allow the owners to play “Scab” games.

Other 2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories

  • New York Jets winning the NFL offseason and can they reach the Super Bowl heights many are predicting for them
  • Position Battles (Carolina Panthers QBs, Philadelphia Eagles Safeties, Dallas Cowboys WR’s, NY Giants DE’s, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WRs, Arizona Cardinals QBs, Buffalo Bills QBs, etc)
  • T.O, Flozell Adams and other free agents still looking for jobs
  • Coaches on the hot seat trying to stay alive (Panthers John Fox, Texans Gary Kubiak, Jaguars Jack DelRio, Bears Lovie Smith, Broncos Josh McDaniels, and Browns Eric Mangini)
  • QB Donovan McNabb changing teams inside the NFC East
  • Brett Favre’s “Possible” Retirement / Return
  • Slow rate of rookie first rounder signings
  • Future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady getting new deals or not
  • The Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, and San Francisco 49ers being popular picks as NFL’s surprise team of 2010

 

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

NFL CBA-related Q & A

 
 

NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith (pictured) and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will soon be at the negotiating table to discuss the NFL’s soon to be expiring CBA

With the 2009 NFL Playoffs moving to the Conference Championship Round this weekend, everyone associated with the league including fans are starting to wonder about the impending Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) labor negotiations. 

NFL Free Agency is scheduled to start on March 5th, but before that the NFL and the NFLPA must see if they can work out an extension of the current deal CBA —  set to expire in March 2011.  If no CBA extension or new deal is worked out, there is the likely scenario of an uncapped year in 2010 and an owner imposed “lock-out” in 2011 (i.e. No Football that season). 

We will have to see if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his counterpart, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith, can come to the table and sort this mess out by March 2010.  But from what the people I have talked to have said is that the world’s greatest sports league has a very high chance of having it’s first labor unrest since the very ugly 1987 Strike season.

In an attempt to bring NFL fans and everyone else up to speed regarding the multifaceted Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league this week released the following Q&A data:

Q. When does the CBA expire should there be no extension to the agreement?

A. In March of 2011.

Q. Will there be a college draft in 2011?

A. Yes.

Q. What is the “Final League Year” in the current agreement?

A. The “Final League Year” is the term used in the CBA to refer to the last year of the agreement. Without a further extension of the CBA, the “Final League Year” would be the 2010 League Year, which begins on March 5.

Q. What are the differences between the “Final League Year” and any other “League Year?”

A. The principal differences are that in the “Final League Year” there is no salary cap and there are substantial additional restrictions on player free agency and reductions in player benefits.

Q. Are current player benefits affected in the Final League Year?

A. We expect current player benefits to decline in the Final League Year. The union agreed that in the Final League Year, clubs would be relieved of their obligation to fund numerous benefit programs. Examples include second career savings (401K), player annuity, severance pay and performance-based pay. The total league-wide contributions to such plans in 2009, the last capped year, were in excess of $325 million or more than $10 million per club.

Q. Are retired player benefits affected in the Final League Year?

A. Commissioner Goodell has stated in a letter to the NFL Alumni Association Board of Directors that there will be no reduction in pension or disability payments to retired players during the Final League Year (2010). Since at least the fall of 2007, NFL owners have consistently agreed and planned that they will not reduce the funding for pension or disability benefits for retired players. Nor will they reduce funding for the 88 Plan during the Final League Year.

Q. What determines an unrestricted free agent in the Final League Year (2010)?

A. In capped seasons, a player whose contract has expired becomes an unrestricted free agent if he has four or more accrued seasons. In the Final League Year (2010), a player whose contract has expired becomes an unrestricted free agent only if he has six or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any club with no compensation owed to his old club.

Q. What determines whether a player is a restricted free agent in the “Final League Year?”

A. In capped seasons, a player whose contract expires becomes a restricted free agent if he has three accrued seasons. In the Final League Year (2010), a player whose contract expires becomes a restricted free agent if he has three, four or five accrued seasons. The first refusal/compensation rights of restricted free agents remain unchanged in the Final League Year.

Q. In addition to the right to designate a franchise (or transition) player each capped year, can clubs designate additional players in the Final League Year?

A. Yes, one additional player can be tagged. In capped years, a club may designate a franchise player or a transition player. In the final league year (2010), a club may designate one additional transition player. A transition player must be offered a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s prior year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no draft pick compensation from that club.

Q. What is the Final Eight Plan?

A. During the Final League Year, the eight clubs that make the Divisional Playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign unrestricted free agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the championship games are limited in the number of free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs. They cannot sign any UFAs unless one of theirs is signed by another team.

For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs, in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases.

In the case of all final eight teams, the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases.

Q. Is there an Entering Player Pool in the Final League Year?

A. There may be. The CBA provides that the league has the unilateral right to keep or eliminate the rookie pool in the Final League Year.

Q. Is there a Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year?

A. There is no Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year. The Minimum Team Salary in 2009 is $107,748,000, meaning each team is required to allocate more than $107 million to player costs (not including benefits). The team salary cap in 2009 was $123 million.

Q. Are there individual player minimum salaries in the Final League Year?

A. Yes, but they rise at a rate somewhat slower than player minimum salaries rise in capped years.

Q. Do any player contract rules from capped years remain in place for the Final League Year?

A. Yes, some rules like the “30% increase rule” are still in effect in the Final League Year for player contracts signed in capped years. That rule restricts salary increases from 2009 to 2010. For example: a player with a $500,000 salary in 2009 would be limited to annual salary increases of $150,000 ($500,000 x 30%) beginning in 2010.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

NFLPA Names Smith as New Executive Director

dsmith

NFLPA will now be led by D.C attorney DeMaurice Smith

The 2008 NFL Season was all about unpredictability and the trend continued this weekend in Hawaii as Washington, D.C. lawyer DeMaurice Smith, pulled a monumental upset by winning a secret ballot vote to replace the late Gene Upshaw as the NFL Players Association’s (NFLPA) new Executive Director.  Smith, a 45-year old partner at the law firm Patton Boggs, was a relative unknown going into the March 15th vote. But he beat out three higher-profile candidates including former NFLPA Presidents Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong plus attorney David Cornwell in voting by player representatives from the NFL’s 32 franchises.  All along most NFL media, including myself, thought that the NFLPA membership’s vote would come down to Vincent or Armstrong as both former players each had extensive backing from a variety of quarreling NFL factions.  However after the player representatives heard from all four candidates – March 14th initial candidate presentations and March 15th closing remarks – they selected the fresh voiced D.C. based corporate attorney as their captain in the boardroom.  Buffalo Bills player representative and defensive back George Wilson recently said of the selection of Smith, “His energy is impressive and he was very prepared in a way that you could see why he has been such a successful attorney”.

The selection of Smith now means that NFL players will call a non-player their lead representative — the first since Ed Garvey left office in 1983 — just like the three other major sports’ player associations. Hopefully Smith is up to the challenge of righting an organization that was once deemed “the weakest union in modern sports”, because there is a litany of landmine issues that the NFLPA will face in the near future.  Legally charged issues include an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011 (the current CBA pays players nearly 60% of football revenues that exceed $6 billion per year according to the owners), a looming uncapped year in 2010, players benefits, retiree rights/benefits, an economy where everyone including the NFL is struggling, a possible rookie salary cap, player marketing, television contracts, player conduct and so much more there is not enough space to write them all down. However Smith, a frequent commentator on MSNBC’s Hardball, has said his new position is a “calling” which leads you to believe he is going to roll his sleeves up to tackle the many challenges facing the NFLPA. 

NFL players by voting-in Smith, who by his own admission has never been in an NFL lockerrooom, decided that their union should be more about the “unity” of players (past and present) while keeping an eye on the “business” side of football rather than politicking, mudslinging, and living in the past (See the Upshaw regime and the campaigns of Vincent and Armstrong). Much like current President Barrack Obama, who has reported ties to the new NFLPA Executive Director, Smith gave NFL players “Change They Could Believe In”. Smith recently said in an USA Today interview, “To say that (the NFLPA Executive Director job) is purely a labor and management play is to miss about six or seven dominant issues that make up the business of the NFL each and every day”.  The former University of Virginia Law School graduate has been on the frontlines of corporate business law for years, including working with current U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, so you know he will be right at home talking the “business” of football.  And let’s not fool ourselves, the National Football League is all about “big” billion dollar corporate business.  Now the players will have a litigious voice representing them at the table with billionaires like Jerry Jones, Pat Bowlen, and Jeffrey Lurie.

I don’t know about you, but I finding it refreshing that the new NFLPA head will be about handling “business” and representing his constituency rather than making back-door agreements that may not be for the good of the organization.  Wilson added, “He’s the man, it’s a new day in the ‘PA.’   So now the play-clock begins on the Smith Era of the NFLPA and it will be interesting to see if the new Executive Director has an amicable or disagreeable relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners he represents.  For now Smith is firmly at the helm of the NFLPA and he will need to stiff-arm the NFL’s many challenges that seem as mammoth as William “The Refrigerator” Perry to guide his players over the goal-line.

  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)