The scene is Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011. Super Bowl XLV has just completed. The confetti is raining down on the repeating Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints, or a new champion. The post-game reports are wrapping up and another great NFL season is in the books. Fans of the NFL start gearing up for the up-coming NFL draft in April, right?
There is a dark cloud looming over the up-coming NFL season; that cloud is the possible lock out. The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires in March of 2011.
Current NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith did not pause or hesitate when asked on a scale of 1-10 of how serious he viewed a possible NFL lock out at the end of the 2010 season, “On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 14.”
Under the current CBA, the league had expanded to 32 teams. Players are able to make as much as $80-90million dollars in total contracts. The TV-revenue sharing reached the billion dollar mark. And franchises- like the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys- were able to top magazines like Forbes for wealthiest franchises.
In previous seasons the NFL had a hard salary cap that teams had to adhere to. This year because of the CBA ending in 2011, the NFL is acting under non-salary cap season. Teams are free to add whom ever they would want to without penalty for going over the pre-determined salary cap. Some owners in previous years would jump at the notion of a “free market” of players. However, those owners have shied away from spending freely. The reason is because of what a new salary cap would look like either pre-lock out or post-lock out.
Some veterans of the NFL like Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday have tried to advise some of the younger players in-case of a lock out.
“We’ve told them, ‘Don’t go out and buy a new boat. Don’t go out and buy a new car. Pay off whatever debts you have,’ these are things we’ve been learning from history.”
Owners want the current players to take an 18% pay reduction to help cut costs. Currently, the average NFL player makes $340,000 a year. With the New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning as the highest paid player making $97.5million for six years.
Under the current CBA, rookies who are drafted in the top-10 of the NFL draft are expected to make more than players who have won MVP and Super Bowl trophies. Owners would like to implement a rookie salary cap to go with the overall team salary cap. For example, the 2009 number 1 pick, Matthew Stafford, signed a contract with the Detroit Lions for $72million for six years. This contract for Stafford has him making as much as former Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning, for the same amount of years without Stafford throwing one pass in the NFL.
Players who are coming up to the end of their contracts are trying to get as much as possible out of these owners before the lock out in. Players such as the 09’ NFL top running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans are holding out in fear of a lower salary cap. The Indianapolis Colts are trying to re-structure the contract of franchise cornerstone Peyton Manning. The deal is for Manning to become the highest paid player in the league, an honor very deserving for Manning. Manning feels that a deal can be done, but has some concern about what will happen at the end of the current season.
“I think as a player, I feel we have a pretty good thing going right now in the NFL. It would a shame for something to have to change along those lines. I understand kind of like when a player is holding out or a player contract, there is a business side of this that can be tough. It is not always pretty.”
If the NFL would lock their players the owners would not lose any of the television contract money. They still stand to receive the $5billion that is guaranteed from CBS, ESPN, NBC, and FOX. This is a major factor of why the NFL owners are prepared for a potential lock out. NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell denied these allegations while on NFL Sirius Radio that the owners would be fine with no football in 2011,
“You don’t make money by shutting down your business. The idea that the owners want to lock out and not play football is absolutely not the case. That’s just not good for anybody.”
It’s the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone knows about, but no one wants to talk about. If the NFL does lock their doors in March 2011, it would be the first time the league would have done so since 1982. Back then the league was not the super-power league that it is now. The league now is a 365day 24hour 7day endeavor.
Should the NFL go on strike in March it should not face the same public backlash as Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, or the National Hockey League faced. In the case of the NHL, television deals were severed once their season was canceled.
The NFL has a lot of work to do to fix the financial chaos it is in now. Only the people who are close to the situation: such as the Owners, the NFLPA reps, and Commissioner Roger Goodell know if a whole season needs to be cancelled to fix this mess.
By: T.J. McAloon
Photo courtesy of NY Daily News and AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File