Friday, January 14, 2011

The NFL CBA

As we look forward, I wanted to try and lay out what we know, what we think we know, and what happens as the curtain drops on the season.

What we know
  • The owners and players union can't agree on a new contract.  And to a lesser (and less-publicized) degree, the owners can't agree among themselves about revenue sharing.  The central issue is money, with everyone basically showing a healthy greed, but there are plenty of issues to go around
  • The situation is that the owners are 31 individual entities, and one publicly owned team.  The ruling of the case of American Needle underscores that they are independent, but make decisions in the best interest of the organization that they are members of: the NFL.  The players are all represented by a union (the NFLPA), which negotiates on their behalf.
  • The CBA itself dictates everything about how the NFL works, how the owners are to interact, and how the players interact with them, and how the players are "treated." 
  •  Without a CBA, there is no definitions around free agency.  Who is a free agent?  How can players be retained or signed?
  • There can be no free agency as a result, and signing or trading players will absolutely result in a legal action under the belief of collusion.  Plus, every contract is reviewed by the NFLPA as each player is protected in a sense by the union.
What we think we know
  • The owners are likely to "lock out" the players, beginning as soon as the contract expires, on March 4th. That would (a) head off any problems with free-agency, and (b) to start to put pressure on the players to act.
  • A lockout means that the team facilities are closed to all players.  No rehab.  No working out.  No meeting as a group with coaches (who are part of the ownership for CBA purposes)
  • The NFL thinks it will have a draft.  Who can say?  The CBA dictates the draft itself, the order of selection, how the players are bound to a team.  
    • Certainly no player trades can happen during the draft (but draft picks can be traded, presumably, because they have no value)
    • No agent will allow their client to attend the draft.  The draft - if its held - will be management making decisions.  The players will have to stand firm and not show up at the charade.
    • The teams are selecting the rights to players, no one can be signed to a contract
    • There is no guarantee that each owner will behave or agree to the rules. 
    • Without a CBA, it is at least possible that a prospect sues to not have his rights held by a particular team
    • There will be no working out with the team, no rookie camp, no getting into the playbook
What might happen
  • The NFLPA may be disbanded, thus giving the players the ability to sue the NFL, this would allow the power in negotiations to tip toward the players
  • They might come up with an agreement to play one more year under the current CBA, while they continue to negotiate.  
    • This would require that all players stay with their current team, and free agents would be re-signed at some $ amount
    • The union would have to agree with it (unlikley)
  • They might finally come to an agreement in late summer / early fall (ie, when players actually feel the financial pinch)
  • They might continue to have issues and it might carry well into the season
What this means to us as fans 
  • Enjoy these next few weeks.  You may have NOTHING to work with for several months.  If there is a draft, its somewhat of a sham.
  • Find a hobby that you wouldn't mind taking into the fall.  
  • Look forward to college football
My biggest issue is that there is a goose that lays golden eggs.  And its going to be cooked.


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