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).

Are We Talking About Hair ???

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Apparently the upcoming NFL Owners’ Meetings in West Palm, Florida will resemble many American households from the 1960’s as hair length and style take center stage.  The Kansas City Chiefs have put forth before the owners a proposed rule that would require players to wear their hair in a way (“tuck” it) so that it doesn’t obscure the name plate on the backs of their jerseys.

Sure they are saying that it is a safety issue and that they are not telling players to “cut” their hair due to CBA language that forbids such edicts –The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA expressly prohibits the imposition of discipline based on facial hair or hair length… ACLU would be on the phone quicker than lightning. 

But you cannot tell me that the “Father Knows Best -esque” bureaucratic NFL does not want to rein players in that look unsightly in their opinion.  The NFL is running a VERY dangerous course by forcing player appearance, they already dictate everything with uniforms down to towel length and socks not being pulled up so apparently “hair” is the next step.  I will be interested to see what will happen if the rule passes and a respected veteran like Steelers safety Troy Troy Polamalu doesn’t want to “tuck” his hair.

I personally really don’t care how many tattoos a player has or if his hair is down to his waist.  The key matter in player evaluation is whether the guy can bring the “wood” on the field or not.  I like that some guys have the unusual “forget image” attitude that they are willing to express themselves in a sport where uniformity has gotten out of control.  Plus as Dolphins running back Ricky Williams learn if you play with long hair, it is okay for an opponent to use it against you.

It will take 24 positive votes from the 32 franchises for the measure to pass and if it does look for some fun “barber” fireworks come training camp time.

Free Agency 101: The 2008 Free Agency Period is Upon us and it is Time to Shop Around the NFL

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Remember “Nate Clements”, all you fans out there with dreams of signing a player and moving onto the Super Bowl.  Clements last year’s “big” free agent signed the deal of a lifetime (8 years, $80 Million with $22 Million guaranteed) going from financially poor Buffalo Bills to the “cash heavy” rebuilding San Francisco 49ers.  The moves of bringing in Clements and fellow free agency pickups safety Michael Lewis and receiver Ashley Lelie were supposed to move the Niners into NFC West title contention.  Well, now we know that the Niners limped home with a 5-11 record posting the NFL’s 4th worst Net Point differential of negative 145 points with Clements posting okay numbers (94 TKLs, 4 INTs, 1 Sack), but far the investment return expected.I am sure generals managers around the NFL took note during the 2007 season of the Niners fortunes.  The Niners expected to win after shopping at Neiman Marcus in the offseason for players.  But not so fast…. as we saw the New York Giants fueled by a good draft (Aaron Ross, Kevin Boss, Zak DeOssie, Jay Alford, and others) melded with key veterans hoisting the Super Bowl XLII Lombardi trophy.  The Giants proved that playing as a “team” is omnipotent in the NFL rather than trying to buy a championship.  The G-Men cemented the same successful formula that the Colts, Patriots, and Steelers have subscribed to for years by looking to the draft first to build their team — Did you notice all of these teams have recently won a Super Bowl.  Over the years I have always told disgruntled spend-happy fans, “Good teams fill weaknesses on their roster with solid veteran players and draft picks and bad ones try to make a splash with free agents and usually fall apart”.

Timeframe: Begins at 12:01 a.m. EST on Friday, February 29th and runs to April 20th at 4 PM EST for unrestricted free agents

Salary Cap Information: The salary cap this year has been set for $116 million per team, which is $7 million higher than last year’s figure of $109 Million.  Remember TV and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) have dictated the large pot of money that is out there.  Most of the teams are in good shape going into the free agency signing period due to good cap management.   Solid teams usually make good cap decisions (Cutting of high priced veterans, extending young ascending players, and signing value veterans at the league minimum: $750,000).  Teams with plenty of cap room (signing dollars) include: Jaguars ($46.3 million), Titans ($42.7 Million), Bills ($39.6 Million), Vikings ($35.4 Million), and Saints ($35.2 Million). While others like the Redskins ($22 Million over the cap), Colts ($2.3 Million under), Panthers ($5.7 Million under), Rams ($7 Million under) and Ravens ($7.4 Million under) will need to do some slashing and contract restructuring before trying to sign their upcoming draft picks and desired free agents.  For the Birds fans the Eagles have $31.3 Million.

Number of Free Agents: The National Football League announced that over 400 players are free agents of some kind and they can now negotiate with all 32 teams. That number includes the 12 free agents that were designated as “franchise” or “transition” players.

Key Terms

Restricted Free Agent – A player that has accrued three seasons of playing time and their contract has expired.  The player’s team must submit a “qualifying” offer (a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players). The player can negotiate with any team through April 20. If the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new team, his old team can match the offer and retain him because it has the “right of first refusal.” If the old team does not match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player’s rights revert to his old team after April 20.  These are guys that usually have trade value and their team will only let them go at their price (ex. The Eagles trading restricted free agent quarterback AJ Feeley to the Miami Dolphins for a 2nd Round pick in 2005)

Some of the bigger name restricted free agents:

Cleveland QB Derek Anderson

Dallas RB Marion Barber III

Atlanta OLB Michael Boley

Tennessee K Rob Bironas

Tennessee TE Bo Scaife

Kansas City P  Dustin Colquitt

St. Louis S  Oshiomogho Atogwe

Tampa Bay DT Jovan Haye,

Arizona T Elton Brown,

Baltimore G Jason Brown,

Arizona CB Eric Green

New England DT Mike Wright

Houston S C.C. Brown,

Indianapolis S Matt Giordano

Pittsburgh G Chris Kemoeatu

Unrestricted Free Agent – A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any team, with no compensation owed to his old team, through July 22.  These are the guys that should be thanking Reggie White, a key marquee player who took advantage of free agency and was a huge signee in 1993 signing with the Green Bay Packers. Over 300 players have this designation. 

Some Bigger Name Unrestricted Free Agents:

New England  CB Asante Samuel

Chicago OLB Lance Briggs

New England WR Randy Moss (Book it that the Pats and Brady get him back)

Pittsburgh OG Alan Faneca

Dallas OT Flozell Adams

San Diego RB Michael Turner

Chicago WR Bernard Berrian

Seattle WR D.J. Hackett

Cincinnati DE Justin Smith

Arizona LB Calvin Pace

NY Giants FS Gibril Wilson

Oakland QB Daunte Culpepper

Cincinnati  S Madieu Williams

Dallas RB Julius Jones

Transition Player – A team can designate one transition player (or one franchise player) in any given year. The player’s team must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the team a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another team after his contract expires. If the team matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Tackle Max Starks was the only player named as a “Transition Player” this year.

Non-Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as a “Non-Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. A “Non-Exclusive” franchise player is free to sign with other teams, but his team has the right to match the offer after 7 days.  These type of players are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  The deadline for making these designations for 2007 was Feb. 22.

  • Oakland CB Namandi Asomugha was the only player named as a “Non-exclusive” Franchise Players this year.

Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as an “Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. An “exclusive” franchise player is not free to sign with another team.  These type of players are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  Some teams use the tag as a way to initiate talks for a long-term contract, but usually players and their agents that are designated as exclusive franchise players are extremely unhappy and can cause distractions.  Their angst is due to the loss of an “upfront” signing bonus (guaranteed $$$).  Though they will be paid at the highest level of their position, players typically want the big payday that comes with being a free agent.  In the past we have seen franchised players miss all non-mandatory off season training activities and report late or holdout of training camp (ex. Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle Walter Jones in 2004 & 2005). The deadline for making these designations for 2008 was Feb. 21. Here are the anticipated salaries for franchised players Quarterbacks: $10.73 Million,  Cornerbacks: $9.47 Million, Defensive Ends: $8.88 Million, Linebackers: $8.07 Million, Wide Receivers: $7.85 Million, Offensive Lineman: $7.46 Million, Defensive Tackles: $6.36 Million, Running Backs: $6.54 Million, Tight Ends: $4.53 Million, Safeties: $4.34 Million, and Kickers/Punters: $2.51 Million

2008 “Exclusive” Franchise Designated Players

Kansas City DE Jared Allen

Seattle CB Marcus Trufant

Baltimore OLB/DE Terrell Suggs

Tennessee DT Albert Haynesworth

Indianapolis TE Dallas Clark (Franchise Tag then signed to long term deal w/ Colts) 

Dallas S Ken Hamlin

Carolina OT Jordan Gross

Arizona  OLB Karlos Dansby

Philadelphia TE L.J. Smith

Cincinnati OT Stacy Andrews

Green Bay DT Corey Williams

Cap Casualty – A veteran player that has been released from his contract usually as “cap relief” for his former team.  These players are usually let go before their contract bonuses or incentives kick usually around March or June before the next season (ex. DT Dana Stubblefield cut by the Washington Redskins in June of 2001) to free up cap space.  The veteran player is free to sign with any team, with no compensation owed to his old team and doesn’t have to wait until the free agency signing period begins.

Some Bigger Name 2008 Cap Casualty Players

Atlanta QB Byron Leftwich

Miami LB Zach Thomas (Signed with the Dallas Cowboys)

Atlanta TE Alge Crumpler

Carolina OG Mike Wahle

Miami QB Trent Green

Minnesota S Dwight Smith

Panthers LB Dan Morgan

Information from NFL.com was used in this article