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Archive for Saturday, July 16, 2011

Commentary: Deal means less money for NFL players

July 16, 2011

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— There will be football in 2011.

There also will be a salary cap and a rookie wage scale — two owner-friendly commodities that did not exist in 2010 when the Green Bay Packers captured the NFL championship.

Labor peace has finally been achieved after a lockout of more than four months by owners who were not content receiving less than half of the revenue their league was generating.

That labor peace could officially come today, Sunday or early next week after a few minor details are worked out.

It likely will come before July 21, when the 32 owners are scheduled to meet in Atlanta to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement.

If the owners do not vote — forcing teams to push back the start of training camp — that could jeopardize the first full weekend of preseason play, Aug 12-15. Every weekend of the preseason is worth $200 million to the NFL in TV revenue and gate receipts.

So every weekend of games missed in the preseason would shrink the size of the financial pie the two sides have spent the summer trying to divide up — and neither the owners nor players are going to let that happen. The NFL is a $9 billion industry and the two sides are not about to leave a penny of it on the table.

In 2009, the last year of the salary cap, the players received 60 percent of the NFL’s revenue, minus $1 billion off the top for team stadium expenses. The union argued that minus the billion, the players were only receiving 50 percent of the total revenue.

Either way, the players now will receive even less. The sides have reportedly agreed on a 52-48 split in favor of the owners.

Not only that, the salary cap that was missing in 2010 will shrink from $128 million in 2009 to a projected $120 million in 2011. That’s the ceiling. There also will be a floor — a minimum of $108 million each team must spend in cash on players each season.

The Cowboys already have $139 million in contractual commitments to players for the 2011 season — so Jerry and Stephen Jones will need to prune $19 million from the roster after the CBA is ratified.

The division of revenue was the focal point of the negotiations, but the two sides finally agreed to that 52-48 split earlier in the week. The rookie wage scale was the other major stumbling block, and the sides have reached an agreement on that as well.

The money spent on unproven college players at the top of the draft was becoming astronomical for teams. NFL owners wanted to cap that rookie spending much like the NBA has done, arguing that the money saved could be spent on veteran players.

By giving teams an out on a player after four years, less money would be wasted.

The Oakland Raiders took LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick of the 2007 draft and gave him a $61 million contract with $32 million guaranteed. But Russell was a bust, starting only 25 games (winning seven) in three seasons before Oakland released him.

The mechanics of free agency and the length of the off-season programs are two lesser obstacles that stand in the way of a handshake between the two sides. Don’t look for those issues to stand in the way for long.

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