The NFL is all about profits. The league has been wildly successful over the past few years, with revenue skyrocketing. But this year has seen an unexpected drop in ratings for the games. This may put more impetus behind the idea of expanding the regular season to eighteen games, which would give the networks more weekends to broadcast the games and hopefully increase viewership overall. That is not an idea that sits well with the player’s union, however.
Everyone has their price, of course. And this might be a great opportunity for the NFLPA to wring some serious concessions out of the league. This is strictly one man’s opinion, of course, but here is a proposal that I think DeMaurice Smith should put together and present to the league. And here is exactly how I think he should state his case with Roger Goodell (because it’s a little more fun this way)
Hello, Roger. Thanks for seeing me.
Now, I know you and the owners are really itching to expand the season to eighteen games. That is going to be a hard sell to the players, given the extreme wear and tear the current schedule already inflicts on them. And there is that whole CTE thing. But I have had some discussions, and we think there just might be a way - if the league can give us a few little things in return.
Now, to set up a basis for a lot of what we would need to sign off on such a significant change to the CBA, we need to consider a number: 12.5%. That is the increase in games from the current sixteen that you are looking for. So we feel that the minimum for what the players should receive, in more ways than one, should be based on that.
Most obviously, the salary cap has to go up by that amount. We are going to be putting that much more product out there for your viewing public, so the dollars have to follow. And that is before you factor in the expected increase from the television contracts next year. Now, given that things have not gone so well with the ratings this year, we understand that you may not see as much of an increase as you have in past years. So you should understand in turn that we would have to see the cap next year be at least this year’s plus that 12.5% increase, no matter what happens with the networks and the other providers you are working with, such as Twitter. That is what you would call non-negotiable.
Another factor that has to be considered is the number of players on the game day roster. Those two extra games are going to mean extra injuries, which is going to make it harder to keep a good product on the field, especially in the final weeks of the season. So the roster should also increase by about that percentage. Just to round things off, the roster should increase to 60, with the game day actives at 52. We might be willing to wiggle one on each of those, but really would rather not. The idea of new jobs for 224 players each year is really appealing to us. And frankly, I think if you talk to the coaches, they will be all on board with the idea. 52 players on game day will make figuring out the lineup a whole lot easier, don’t you think? Just to show you that we are not a bunch of hard-headed types, we’ll leave the practice squad numbers strictly in your hands. See, we can be reasonable.
Now, of course with the longer season and all, you are going to have to add another bye week for each team. They really need that extra week to recuperate a bit to get through what is now going to be nearly a five-month grind, not counting the playoffs. That is something you can use as well to pursue one of your pet projects, playing more games outside the US. You can more easily schedule those international games with a bye week afterwards for the teams to get their internal clocks back to normal. The added flexibility should make you very willing to get on board with this. And don’t forget, an extra bye week means that the networks now have three more weekends of football to market. If you put the extension at the end of the season, you would also give them more to work with in the sports-deficient months of January, while the Super Bowl would be moved closer to March Madness. Nobody really cares that much about regular season basketball and hockey, anyway, so you would continue to dominate the ratings then. And that is what you really want, isn’t it?
We would even be willing to forego the necessity of tying international games to the bye week in the case of any games held in the Western Hemisphere, like Mexico City, for instance. See, I told you we were the souls of reasonableness.
Now, about preseason. Nobody really likes those games, and they seem to be more and more just a hazard for players. We expect the two extra regular season games to replace two preseason exhibitions. The coaches may not be all that crazy about that, but for the players, it is a must. However, we might be willing to talk about having a third preseason game, especially if you are open to the idea of more neutral sites that don’t normally see NFL games, the way the Hall of Fame game is conducted at Canton. You could have games at some college stadiums, for instance. And maybe you could have a few of these in Canada or Mexico. Just a thought.
Those are the direct issues. Of course, you can probably guess that we have some more things to address.
The first is dead money. Now, I know you see this as a way to help control the salary cap and ensure your precious competitive balance, but we just see that as money that is not being paid to active players. For crying out loud, the three teams with the most dead money, the Saints, Browns, and Eagles, have almost $100 million tied up this year all by themselves. We want to see dead money go away for any player that retires. Now, once again in the spirit of reason, we are willing to stipulate that once a player retires, he cannot return to the league until his dead money would have been accounted for. If a team would want to bring such a player back, they would have to assume whatever remaining dead money he has on the books. But the main thing is that the dead money would no longer be kept out of the pockets of active players, which would benefit them and the teams as well. And it would make it easier for teams to agree to bigger guarantees for veteran players, since the risk of tying that money up would go away should the player’s time be cut short due to injury or just losing interest in the game. And it would make many trades more palatable as well. I certainly realize that the majority of owners can be described as skinflints, but you should be able to use your excellent powers of persuasion to get them to come around. They really have to get over this hand-wringing about spending an extra few million a year on payroll when they are running a franchise worth billions, don’t you think?
This next thing may not sit well with you personally, but we really have to have a new appeals process for suspensions and league discipline. I realize you enjoy your near dictatorial powers there, and accept part of the blame for agreeing to such a ridiculous state of affairs when we negotiated the current CBA, but this is the perfect time to correct that mistake. A neutral arbitration system should solve the problem, reduce your personal workload, and would naturally include a set timetable to resolve these things, instead of waiting for you to find time between important things like golf games to take care of them. See, it’s a win-win all around!
Um, Roger, you look awfully red in the face. Have you had your blood pressure checked lately? And you really should close your mouth before you swallow a fly or something.
Anyway, that’s the minimum the NFLPA thinks it could accept to get to an eighteen game season. We can take care of this now. Or we could always just table it until the next CBA negotiation.
Which, if we don’t take care of some of this now, is going to get ugly. Just sayin’.
Have a nice day.
Pie in the sky? Probably. But given what an extended schedule would do to the players, is this really an unreasonable proposal? What do you think?