So it's come to this. The NFL and the NFLPA couldn't agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, and now the NFLPA is no more, the NFL has supposedly decided to lockout the players, and as KD posted earlier today, a group of players will file suit under antitrust laws in the court of Judge David Doty.
It's hard not blame everybody in this process. It does appear the NFL owners were on course for a lockout for a while now, given their negotiating $4 billion in revenue from the broadcasters in case of a lockout. That sure smells like they had a strategy from the beginning of this process. Either get the NFLPA to accept a new definition of business terms or lock them out. It's also unconscionable for the owners to expect the players to agree to new terms without giving them full financial data. The owners waited much to late in the process to start handing over the data.
As for the players, to some extent, it feels like they were relying too much on their ace in the hole - decertification and an appearance in the court of Judge Doty. Given his player friendly rulings in the past, the NFLPA probably thought that was a better route to go than to give in on too many concessions.
So what exactly did the players association pass on? The NFL has sent out what they say is a summary of their final offer that the players rejected.
Summary from the NFL.
1. We more than split the economic difference between us, increasing our proposed cap for 2011 significantly and accepting the Union's proposed cap number for 2014 ($161 million per club).
2. An entry level compensation system based on the Union's "rookie cap" proposal, rather than the wage scale proposed by the clubs. Under the NFL proposal, players drafted in rounds 2-7 would be paid the same or more than they are paid today. Savings from the first round would be reallocated to veteran players and benefits.
3. A guarantee of up to $1 million of a player's salary for the contract year after his injury - the first time that the clubs have offered a standard multi-year injury guarantee.
4. Immediate implementation of changes to promote player health and safety by
a. Reducing the off-season program by five weeks, reducing OTAs from 14 to 10, and limiting on-field practice time and contact;
b. Limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season; and
c. Increasing number of days off for players.
5. Commit that any change to an 18-game season will be made only by agreement and that the 2011 and 2012 seasons will be played under the current 16-game format.
6. Owner funding of $82 million in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2000 former players by nearly 60 percent.
7. Offer current players the opportunity to remain in the player medical plan for life.
8. Third party arbitration for appeals in the drug and steroid programs.
9. Improvements in the Mackey plan, disability plan, and degree completion bonus program.
10. A per-club cash minimum spend of 90 percent of the salary cap over three seasons.
Expanding on that statement, the NFL lead negotiator, Jeff Pash, had this to say.
We incorporated new economic terms to try to bridge the gap. You've heard a lot of talk about an $800M gap. Nowhere close. Not close to factual.
We offered today to split the difference and meet the union in the midpoint, with a player compensation number that would have been equivalent to player compensation in 2009 and above player compensation in 2010, and we offered grow it from there over four years by $20 million a club, to the point where in 2014 the player compensation number was the union's number. It was the number the union proposed to us and we accepted it. That wasn't good enough.
We offered to guarantee for the first time in the history of the league, more than one year of injury on player contracts. Apparently not good enough.
We moved off of our wage scale, and we offered to do a rookie compensation system within the context of a hard rookie cap as the union had proposed which would preserve individual negotiations and maintain the role of agents in the process. Evidently not good enough.
We offered, in fact we agreed to the union's request for a cash team minimum for the first time in league history. We agreed to it at their number and their structure. Evidently not good enough.
We told the union that for 2011 and 2012, we would play within the existing 16-game regular season format, and we committed to them, notwithstanding the rights we have in the current agreement, we would not change to 18 games without their consent. Evidently not good enough.
At the same time, we agreed to implement wide ranging health and safety changes, reducing the offseason program by five weeks, reducing the practice time in the preseason, reducing the practice time and contract drills during the regular season and expanding the number of days off for players. Evidently not good enough.
We offered to increase the benefits in a wide range for both current and retired players. Under the proposal we had tendered, retired players who left the league before 1993, would experience an increase in their retirement benefit of close to 60 percent and the union, which says it represents former players, walked away from that today.
It's a complex negotiation with plenty of moving parts, so it's hard to know exactly how the last proposal matched-up with the expectations of the union. But it does appear the NFL made a good-faith proposal, albeit very late in the game. From the player's point of view, having full access to the financial data of the clubs seems to be a major sticking point.
Where this goes from here is anybody's guess. But Judge David Doty's courtroom is the first stop.