SBD/Issue 76/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Next NFL CBA Bargaining Session Set For Tomorrow In N.Y.

Smith's Letter Touches On
Rookie Salary Cap, Blood Testing
The NFL and the NFLPA will hold their first formal bargaining session of the new year tomorrow in N.Y. to discuss a new labor agreement in which owners are asking players to give back about 18% of the compensation they receive under the current labor deal. The session will mark the ninth time the two sides have met since June to hammer out a new deal, in which the owners are seeking significant economic concessions from players. The NFL rolled out its economic proposal in early November, and both sides had agreed to keep the details secret, but ESPN obtained a letter NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith sent to player reps and reported the details of the internal union memo last night. The owners are asking for a rookie wage scale and for expenses to be deducted from their costs, including costs of building new stadiums. Based on the proposal, the union is able to calculate that the owners want players to take a pay cut of about 18%, sources said. A management source would not comment on the details of the proposal last night (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported in addition to the rookie salary cap, Smith's letter also touched on "blood testing, benefit cuts, a nearly 20[%] 'giveback' and a work stoppage." Smith wrote, "We proposed to address the rookie issue with a 'Proven Performance' plan that would redirect $200[M] from rookie cost to veterans, cap rookies to three-year contracts so 'busts' were out of the league quickly, and provided incentives to lowest spending teams to remain competitive by forcing money back to the vets on those teams." Mortensen cited union sources as indicating that the "likelihood of a rookie hard cap being in place by 2011 is remote because, as Smith inferred again, management is preparing for a lockout that season." However, a management source said that owners are "considering making a proposal that would make a rookie cap effective immediately, in April, as an addendum to the current labor agreement, even if the two sides fail to reach agreement on an extension." Sources also said that the union "has calculated that owners spent just 51[%] of revenues on player costs in 2009, in spite of the belief that they are mandated to spend almost 60[%]" (ESPN.com, 1/3).

STILL HOLDING OUT HOPE: Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said he is "hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the players" before the salary cap is removed for the '10 season. Murphy: "It's not going to be easy, but at the end of the day, I'm hopeful we'll create a way." In Green Bay, Tony Walter noted any developments on the labor situation "likely will remain under the public radar." Murphy: "I don't think fans will notice anything in the short term, except maybe in some of the (player) signings." He added that it will "seem like business as usual on the football front" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 1/2). In Pittsburgh, Prine & Brown reported 439 NFLers will "hit the market as unrestricted or restricted free agents" this offseason. It remains to be seen if "big-market franchises ... could 'buy' a championship by plucking a handful of the best remaining talent from lower-revenue clubs" during an uncapped year. However, the final eight playoff teams "only will be able to sign a free agent for every one they lose." Each NFL team will receive an "extra 'transition' tag to allow them to keep the rights of another valuable player" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/31).

THE SILENCE BEFORE THE STORM? ESPN’s Adam Schefter last week on “Mike & Mike in the Morning” predicted there would be a work stoppage in the NFL in ’11, and today he said, “What was alarming to me about that is usually when you say something that can be construed as semi-controversial or inaccurate, you very quickly hear from people. They call you right away and say, ‘You may want to correct this on air. That’s not right.' I never heard one word about the fact that we were mentioning that there may not be football in 2011, that as it stands today, there won’t be football. Nobody said anything about it, and that struck me as odd and peculiar and unnerving and unsettling” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN2, 1/4).

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