NFL Lockout Watch, Day 123: Talks Resume With Rookie Wage Scale An Issue
NFL and NFLPA negotiators will resume talks today on a new CBA, and the "biggest hurdle is the rookie wage scale," according to sources cited by Bob Glauber of NEWSDAY. Owners want to "see a dramatic reduction in rookie salaries -- particularly at the top end of the draft -- and players are resisting the idea." Players also want to "see rookies signed to a maximum of four years, which would allow them to test unrestricted free agency, and owners want contracts to last as long as five years for the top players in the draft." Negotiations between the two sides "still are described as tenuous by those involved, despite some optimism that a deal could be in place when the owners meet July 21 in Atlanta." A source affiliated with the NFLPA said yesterday, "It's close enough that there could be a deal. But we're far enough away that the lack of a deal shouldn't stun anyone." Owners are "scheduled to be briefed on the status of negotiations at the previously scheduled meeting in Atlanta, and some league and player officials say they believe a deal could be in place by then for ratification" (NEWSDAY, 7/12). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch reports the players are "accusing the owners of leaking optimistic updates as a way to heighten expectations among the fans and put pressure on the decertified union to accept a less-than-optimum deal" (N.Y. POST, 7/12).
TAKING THE FIFTH: ESPN.com's John Clayton cited sources on both sides as saying that the "debate in the rookie pool talks is over how to structure a fifth-year option for first-round draft picks." Under current proposals, "all first rounders would get four-year deals, plus an option year." That option "could be executed by the team after the third or fourth year of the contract." However, owners "want a fixed amount for the fifth year option." Owners also "talked about an escalator clause based on performance for the fifth year in addition to the fixed amount." Players want agents to "negotiate that fifth year when they do the contract," but owners do not (ESPN.com, 7/11). Agent Joe Linta said, "There has to be a trade-off if the owners are pushing on (less) guaranteed money. Players need less onerous restrictions on the length of their contracts. The bottom line is that the owners cannot have it both ways" (USA TODAY, 7/12). But ESPN’s Tedy Bruschi said veteran NFLers “are saying, ‘Finally -- finally -- there’s a rookie wage scale, because these rookies have been overpaid for a long period of time.’” Bruschi: “Now they’ll be rewarded for having NFL careers” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 7/11).
CHECKING THE SCHEDULE: In Chicago, Biggs & McClure note the Aug. 7 Bears-Rams Pro Football HOF Game is "in jeopardy with so much ground that must be covered." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said, "We have not identified a date by which we have to have an agreement to save the Hall of Fame Game. Time is admittedly running short, however." Biggs & McClure note if the owners are able to ratify the CBA by July 21, that "would seemingly make it difficult or even impossible for the Bears and Rams to report to camp July 22 -- as scheduled -- and have their first practices July 23." The early start for those two teams is designed to give them the "standard 15 days to practice before the first exhibition." There has been no indication whether the game "could be played with a shorter preparation period if only the first few days of camp are missed" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/12). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote if a CBA is ratified on July 21, "it would make sense to cancel" the HOF game. Seifert: "If the Hall of Fame game is the only on-field casualty of the lockout, it's a victory for everyone" (ESPN.com, 7/11). Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Stephen Holder notes the NFL lockout needs to end by Aug. 1 for the Bears and Buccaneers to play in London this season, as scheduled, and the July 21 timeline "would beat that deadline" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/12).
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Pro Football HOFer Gale Sayers said that the NFL and NFLPA "could have done more to help" former union President John Mackey, who passed away last week. Sayers said, "You know, John Mackey died at 60-something (69). (The NFL) could have helped him more, I felt. But they didn’t, and the players (NFLPA) could have helped more, and it didn’t happen" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/12).