This is assuming litigation really does get messy and we miss either a small portion, a good deal or all of the NFL season. None of us can say for sure what’s going to happen with the coming lawsuits. Baseball was recently forced to play another year under a previous CBA arrangement when the MLB was taken to court. The NHL however saw a similar lock out after a CBA expiration in ’04 which led to an entire season being lost. The most pressing issue behind both cases were the quickly escalating player salaries, the NHL being an extreme in which 76 percent of the gross revenue was going straight to the players.
Now, I’m not a lawyer or accountant for the PA or the NFL. I don’t understand all of the ins and outs behind this lockout or the finances that led to this situation, so I’m going to assume that whatever happens is going to be an arduous process with lots of happy well paid attorneys on both sides who would probably love for the case to drag on ad nauseam. Despite the owners insistence that they are still ready and willing to continue bargaining, the players must certainly feel that only a judge will be able to net them the deal they are searching for with no concessions. It’s a little reckless, but I’ll get into that in a bit.
Despite me not trusting the owners I honestly just think they agreed to a deal that wasn’t viable long term and are trying to turn it around before it can affect their bottom line. It’s easy to say that the owners are at fault right now because they’re opting out of the CBA early, but for one they had the option to opt out of the CBA and can’t be faulted for it if the NFLPA agreed to the clause; and for two if they’re opting out of it to renegotiate the basic nomenclature of the CBA we would probably be heading for this juncture regardless, and after the normal CBA had played out we would be right back where we are now. In other words, the current conflict that we are witnessing may have simply been inevitable. There’s definitely more to it such as the socialistic nature of the NFL but when you take a look at the deal the players left on the table it’s obvious the owners would rather have a season played with weaker teams piggy backing onto the true money makers as opposed to not having a league at all. Albeit not quite the status quo, that deal they offered the players was actually something very similar to the last CBA and something that is very profitable for everyone involved. That’s definitely not the stance the Player’s Association is taking and honestly I can understand why they wouldn’t want to concede anything for fear of opening a can of worms that would lead to owners wanting to take more and more.
If Roger Goodell’s letter is to be believed, the owners wanted a cap set at 141 million in 2011 and a cap of 161 million by 2014, reduced OTAs (something which I’ve definitely heard a few veterans yearn for), 16 game seasons and no 18 game season until the PA agreed to it (thank God), expanded injury guarantees in case a player gets hurt in which case they still make a million dollars of their contract, extended medical coverage for families of retired players, expanded pension benefits for players who retired before ’93, and a new streamlined disciplinary procedure which includes a neutral arbiter mutually agreed upon by the PA and the owners. To me, it seems that PA is being selfish and unfair towards former players by not wanting to continue down the avenues the owners were willing to venture. We all know the horror stories about former players in the league, much more I’m sure a good percentage of the players rely on their pension funds to live day to day. I don’t know how many of them would support the players declining those concessions in exchange for their same pay rate, especially when the concessions include an even larger salary cap this year (i.e. immediately), but if they really are concerned about their brethren then they would definitely have wanted to expand upon that offer by the owners and would be just as litigious for those expanded pensions and medical benefits as they are for their own salaries. It might also be detestable for the owners to use concessions they should probably be making anyways as either a bargaining chip or a PR grab (if they believed a lockout was inevitable).
Now I understand that the owners are saying that they are losing money due to the player’s salaries but in lawyer speak they really are even though they may not necessarily be in the red. Green Bay, the only team who publically publishes their finances, has actually made more money in 2010 than they did in 2009; however their profit margins are actually declining in large part due to player’s salaries. Yes, they’re still making money but if they’re losing profits that is only sustainable for so long. While this may not be the case uniformly across the league it’s not too far fetched there are quite a few teams that suffer from this number crunch. Now, while the percentage of compensation doled out to players has remained the same in terms of overall percentages (which is per OCC in his excellent NFL Lockout 2011 series) since 2000 that doesn’t mean that all teams have the same profitability. Moreover, teams every year have to find creative loopholes to come in under the salary cap, so just because they’re on the books for 130 million in salary doesn’t mean that’s what they paid out. Case in point, the Pittsburgh Steelers paid out 30 million dollars to Big Ben (hide your kids, hide your wife) in 2008, and the Lions paid Stafford 27 million last year. That's on top of the 9 million Calvin Johnson received and however much money they spent on Ndamukong Suh (which I couldn't find any hard numbers on, but I believe he was given around 27 million in 2010 on top of his 320k base salary). Neither the city of Detroit nor the Lions are the model for economical prosperity and it's possible they spent over 50 million dollars just on three players last year. These huge paydays fly under the banner of bonuses so you can’t necessarily just look at the cap in order to determine how much a team spends on players each year. So what do we do? Kill the cap and let every man fend for himself? While as a Cowboys fan I would love this it really would be the end of parity in the league and something that makes this league so exciting to watch.
Quite honestly some player’s compensations are getting out of proportion and it’s affecting the quality of play and parity in the league. The last cap in 2009 was 128 million per team and currently there are quite a few players that have hit or are nearing the eight digit marks in salary. If a player makes 10 million of the 128 million you have to spend he’s taking up 7.8125 percent of your cap salary. Cap salaries of course, representing about 1/32 of 57 percent of about six billion dollars. Seriously, why should one player account for over 7.8 percent of your entire roster’s salary? There are 53 players on a game day roster and 11 "starters" on both sides of the ball; I just can’t from an objective point of view condone the rate of growth we’re witnessing where two players can literally take up over fifteen percent of your salary cap while you still have more than 51 other mouths to feed.
The ‘boys paid DeMarcus 16 million in 2010 and are set to pay him 11 in 2011; he deserves every penny from a league standpoint but the fact is that salary is a burden to our team. Throw in the 12 million dollars paid out to Newman as a signing bonus in 2010 and the 8 million that he makes in 2011 and you’ll see why we had to roll with Alan Ball at safety on our defense last year. And newsflash, the Cowboys aren’t the only team with extremely highly paid players on the bankroll; nor are they the only team with veterans they can’t cut due to said bonuses and the effects of cap acceleration. Don’t pay out those contracts? You have to in order to be competitive. Everyone praises Belichik’s stingy personnel decisions but the fact of the matter is if Tom Brady doesn’t get his 18 million a year the Patriots aren’t competing for titles and sooner or later all of their cheap heralded rookies are going to be looking to cash in; Mankins being one of the first to demand some of that Kraft cheese. Moreover, the more large contracts that are handed out to players throughout the league the more we’ll see players trying to sit out a season or hold out for more. We all know Revis’ quest to hit that threshold and more players are going to follow suit.
I’m all for getting in where you fit in but when Mankins gets left tackle money what kind of money does your LT get? How is it affecting parody you ask? Just look at the St. Louis Rams, they just gave Sam Bradford a deal that’s richer than Tony Romo’s and they’ve been giving deals like that out for a few years now. Do you really think that they wanted to release Atogwe? No, they just can’t afford him. Sam Bradford is due about 18 million in 2011, or about 3.5 Atogwes. A team that gets constant high draft picks because they’re not good and has those picks eating up their cap to the point they can’t retain quality veteran talent is not a good formula for parity and it’s at least part of the reason why we keep seeing the same bottom feeders throughout the years. Heck, just look at us! How much do you think Anthony Spencer is going to command in free agency? What about Marcus Spears? Under the cap whatever it was would have been too much, and that’s exactly what we recently went through with Chris Canty. This is happening to a lot of teams as they have to invest more and more in order to lock up their superstars. Looking at the big picture it’s easy to affirm that some players’ salaries are growing out of sync when compared to the cap, so is that an argument against the salary cap and revenue sharing, an argument against the CBA, or an argument against exorbitant player salaries? You pick, but at the end of the day it’s the owners’ beds and they’ll have to lay in them for signing off on such deals.
What I find really disturbing though is the fact that the NFL hired Bob Batterman, the lawyer who guided the NHL’s owners through their season long lockout. It’s also fairly disturbing that the TV money that was recently declared illegal for the league to collect was definitely them positioning for a lock out in 2011. I’m sure the writing was on the wall for a long time that we were headed straight for an impasse and if there’s someone who can halt an entire season it would be Batterman so the owners are definitely ready to play a little hardball themselves. So while it’s hard to fault the owners for wanting to curb player’s expansive salaries and appetites it is no reason to let them slide on making such underhanded moves and no reason to forgive them for creating this mess. It’s a classic horror story where a man creates a monster only to realize what he’s done after it lashes out at him and tries to redact his actions when it’s already too late.
Speaking of monsters, I know I’m not the only one extremely disturbed by DeMaurice Smith. I think a strong leader is necessary but something about this cat rubs me the wrong way. Obviously he’s going to get a lot of media exposure but I think he does a poor job at hiding his personal agenda; which I believe interferes with his ability to make unbiased decisions on behalf of the PA. I mean after all who hasn’t heard of Johnny Cochrane because of his high profile case? Like it or not, if this does become a legal clash and Smith et al. emerge victorious all of their names are going to be wagging on the tongues of every newscaster from local news to CNN and may even garner headlines in international territories. Worse yet, a several sources intimate that DeMaurice Smith really wants to use this lockout as a springboard into loftier and more powerful positions. Thankfully though Smith is without tact and fairly incompetent with regards to the public’s perception, something the league is taking advantage of in winning the opening salvo of public relations. Just imagine if the general public thought DeMaurice Smith was a bold and noble leader who is single handedly taking on 32 greedy billionaires on behalf of the fans and the overwhelmed players? No I see him as more of a rabble-rouser (shout out to our own rabble!) who is coddling and enabling players to try and forcibly take what they feel like they deserve instead of trying to earnestly strive toward a deal that will keep the good of the league in mind. It’s short sighted at best considering how quickly the league’s revenue has accelerated and how complicated the nature of this beast is becoming.
Reckless even, and I think that it’s a shame such marquee players are in charge of and have such leverage over the actions of a large entity that is honestly more represented by the 3 and 4 year guys who are always on the bubble. It’s no coincidence Drew Brees is a representative. Easy question – to whom is the status quo more beneficial? Who is better prepared for it? Peyton Manning has a ton to lose if they scale back player’s salaries seeing as how he’s got a mega contract coming his way soon, and he’s really well prepared to sit out a season with money in the bank to pay all the bills while he’s playing Madden (will there be a Madden 2012 with no CBA?) on his chinchilla couch.
What about the scrappers? Why is Jessie Holley supposed to sit out games? Nobody’s trying to cut his wages. If anything the Jessie Holleys and Kevin Ogletrees of the NFL are losing out. They’re the everyman of the NFL. I know they still make more than the majority of us, but let’s just put it this way; what would your finances look like if you made zero dollars from March 12th 2011 until March 12th 2012? I try to be as wise with my finances as possible, but I couldn’t make it. I imagine their life is more like ours, house note, car note, try to buy nice things but really just trying to have peace of mind. What's more is the shelf life of these players is seriously short. If Holley doesn't get paid in 2011 and the Cowboys draft a slot receiver and bring in some undrafted free agents he might get pushed out just because of his age and his ceiling as a player. Once he's cut from the Cowboys he may or may not get picked up by another team, and his career may or may not be over. So how did decertifying and going to court benefit him as opposed to bargaining with the owners? It doesn't, and these fringe players are not only going to miss out on money they're making now but the longer it takes for them to get back on the field the more competition they're going to have for their precious roster spot and the shorter their window of opportunity to make money as a player in this league becomes.
It's also a shame that they're taking advantage of youth and naivety as an ends to their mean. The PA wants the rookies to sit out the draft this year, and at the same time they're in staunch support of rookie salary caps. I didn't hear any of them complaining when they got 1st round draft pick money, I didn't see them angry when they signed that dotted line out of college, and I definitely didn't see any of them miss out on their national spotlight when their mugs were being splashed on TVs across America in the draft. Most of us are probably also for a rookie cap but I just hate to see Von Miller being touted in a law suit by forces conspiring against him. Firstly, it could hurt his standing with teams and drop him down the totem pole and make him miss out on money. Secondly, if he's a top 5 pick then he's going to be losing out on money anyways thanks to the aforementioned rookie cap that both the league and the PA have agreed upon so this CBA may or may not ultimately effect his wages. Think about it, if he's going to resign in 2015 or 2016 and the cap in 2014 is already projected over 160 million then he will still probably be able to sign a really nice mega deal. So what Miller stand to gain? Not much. What does he stand to lose? Well, we won't know how it plays out until the contracts are signed but the difference between being the 2nd overall pick and the 7th is still going to exist. Plus, if he sits out he's going to miss a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in what's almost like a graduation ceremony for these players that have worked hard all their lives. Antonio Cromartie recently tweeted that the rookies should just ignore the NFLPA and go enjoy their moment in the spotlight, even offering to go to the draft in support of them and the fans. Now, when Antonio Cromartie is the voice of reason you're in a bad way as a Union.
Speaking of which, he's got lots of child support to pay; and as one of the players that probably has debts to pay he's been pretty outspoken about this whole ordeal. I'm sure he'd rather sign a contract for 5 or 6 million and play this year then hold out until next year for 7 or 8. So it's not like the NFLPA really is trying to represent the best for the league as a whole, and even more tragically their representation may not even represent whats best for them.
If a Judge does force them to play another season under the old CBA with no salary cap we're probably going to see quite a few overpaid veterans dumped on their keysters. I'm serious, the only reason a couple of players are on the Cowboys right now is because we don't know how they're going to effect our future cap situation. Just look at Marion Barber and Roy Williams. When there aren't any ramifications to cutting Barber I'm almost sure he'll be gone. Likewise we might hang on to Roy Williams for depth but if we had a capable receiver behind him he might be out the door as well. So how is decertifying helping players that are hanging onto their jobs because they're protected by the current system? It's really not, and once they get cut with no ramifications to the owners and aren't able to sign a contract remotely resembling what they were banking on they'll probably see too late that the status quo benefited them more than they realized.
Regardless, the way this decertification thing plays out will make or break the Cowboys this year. I’m going to look at the absolute best scenarios and the (unfortunately) more likely worst scenarios, starting with
1. ANOTHER TOP 10 DRAFT PICK (!?)