Why no extension? Follow the money

March 01, 2006|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN REPORTER

Is the golden goose cooked?

Could the NFL and its millionaire minions really ruin a good thing and send competitive balance spiraling off into the abyss?

Without a collective bargaining agreement, would the NFL degenerate into Major League Baseball with a rich upper crust, a distant middle class and an even more distant poverty sector?

So many questions, so few answers.

What we know about the NFL's muddled labor negotiations is this: Unless there is an extension of the CBA by Friday at 12 a.m., the league will operate on a new, more restrictive set of salary cap rules in 2006.

And if there is no extension during the coming season, the NFL will dump the salary cap system altogether and wade through antitrust issues to do business in a brave new era.

Buckle up, we're on a fact-finding mission.

What are the issues separating the NFL Players Association and the NFL Management Council?

There is only one issue - money. The players want a bigger share of the NFL's burgeoning revenues. The owners, citing rising operating costs and debt service on stadiums, have drawn a fiscal line in the sand. That high-revenue owners are refusing to share local revenues with their small-market brethren speaks volumes about the level of greed in the league.

What is the immediate impact if there is no CBA?

The first to feel the squeeze will be the 32 teams trying to get under a tight salary cap (expected to be between $92 million and $95 million) for this season. More players than usual will be cut as teams scramble to meet the cap limit. Then the fallout hits the players. With less money available for teams to spend, there will be fewer lavish contracts.

If there is no extension by Friday, are the two sides likely to reach an agreement before going to an uncapped season in 2007?

Not according to Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA. Upshaw's position is that once the union enters the final year of the cap, the players will want to eliminate the system altogether, although this was not their top priority. The owners would have to sweeten the deal a lot to make it happen after Friday.

What motivation do the owners have to get a deal done by Friday?

Massive chaos likely will result from a final year under the cap. Those big signing bonuses of the past no longer can be spread over six and seven years for cap purposes. Instead, they'll be restricted to four years. There also will be no more cap deferrals with June 1 cuts. All signing bonus acceleration after June 1 counts immediately on the cap.

There's also a clause that says no salaries between a capped and uncapped year can increase by more than 30 percent, removing management's favorite ploy of restructuring contracts.

What motivation do the players have to get a deal done by Friday?

Not only will this year's signing period be less rewarding, but without a cap, it will take six years to gain unrestricted free agency, not four as in the past. A lot of players will never see that sixth season. Also, with signing bonuses stretched over four years, guaranteed money will be harder to get.

What will the NFL look like down the road without a salary cap system?

A lot like baseball, unfortunately. Without a level playing field, competitive balance could disappear. The NFL could become a league of haves and have-nots. Only a handful of well-heeled teams will have the ability to win the Super Bowl, and small-market teams will be hard-pressed just to cover player costs.

What is the union's strategy?

Without an agreement, Upshaw said the NFLPA will decertify and take the NFL to antitrust court. Without its antitrust exemption, the league would risk losing its college draft. Without a union, Upshaw believes the league could not legally lock out players in 2008.

How will the NFL respond to the threat against competitive balance?

There are clauses in the current CBA that actually penalize playoff teams as far as free-agent acquisitions. For example, the final four teams in the 2006 playoffs will be permitted to sign only their own unrestricted free agents, unrestricted free agents on waivers or as a replacement for each unrestricted free agent the team loses.

With no salary cap limit, will there be a salary cap minimum?

No, and that really scares the union.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.