Key factors in the NFL CBA negotiations

I’m in Las Vegas at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association conference and one of the panels yesterday featured former Packer VP Andrew Brandt (current president of the National Football Post) and sports agent Blake Baratz discussing the ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the NFL and the Players’ Association.

Here are the key points of contention:

1. Share of revenue.
The players currently get 59% of the pie and the owners would like to see that share reduced. This is obviously a contentious issue.

2. An 18-game season.
The NFL wants to expand the regular season by two games while eliminating two preseason games. This would be a boon for the owners since regular season games bring in more revenue than preseason games. For the players, this is a health and safety issue and one concession that the owners could make might be in the area of health benefits and post-career pensions.

3. Guaranteed salaries.
This is not a big deal with regard to established players like Peyton Manning, who is in the midst of negotiating a contract that would make him the highest paid player…ever. Baratz believes that the main issue is with the Top 10 players in the draft. There is a ridiculous amount of money being thrown at unproven players and everyone (outside of the ten young men who will be drafted that early) would like to see that amount of money reduced. Baratz believes that there isn’t much of a difference between an early first round player and a late first round player, yet the monetary difference is huge, and those fat contracts (think JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf) can hamstring a franchise for years if that player doesn’t pan out. However, the two sides won’t necessarily agree on what to do with the money. The veteran players would like to see it spread around the rest of the league while the owners might just want to cut that cost out completely.

4. Health benefits.
This is more important to the rank and file players than the stars who make far more money, but as of March 3, NFL players will have no health benefits. Brandt mentioned a story where one player asked another if he and his wife should plan to induce labor so that the delivery is covered by insurance.

5. Salary cap.
When we headed into the 2010 season without a salary cap, many pundits were worried about how out-of-control owners would spend, spend and spend some more. Instead, we’ve seen the opposite, with teams slashing salary and going under the salary cap floor. The Players’ Association needs that salary floor to keep players’ salaries up, so they’ll no doubt agree to a similar salary cap structure that was found in the previous CBA.

Both men are optimistic about a deal getting done relatively soon, and place the chances of something getting done before training camp at around 90-95%.

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