2011 NFL season to be uncapped once the lockout ends?

National Football League Players’ Association’s (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith arrives to continue negotiations between the National Football League (NFL) and NFLPA in Washington March 11, 2011. The parties were still negotiating a range of sticking points, including how to divide more than $9 billion in annual revenues, but the players’ union insist one issue, the NFL’s proposal to add two more games to the regular season, was off the table. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES – Tags: EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS SPORT FOOTBALL)

The Washington Post is reporting that the 2011 NFL season would likely be played with no salary cap if the players succeed in ending the owners’ lockout.

That would mean there would be no player-payroll maximum or minimum for NFL teams. Players with expired contracts would need six years of NFL service time to be eligible for unrestricted free agency, rather than the four seasons required when the salary cap system was in effect; players with expired contracts and three to five seasons of NFL experience would be restricted free agents. Each team would have an extra transition-player tag, in addition to the one franchise-player or transition-player designation allowed per club under the salary cap system, to restrict players’ movement in free agency, and there would be limits on the free agent activity of last season’s final eight playoff teams.

The reason that system would be used, sources said, is that it might have a better chance of withstanding an antitrust challenge by the players, given that the union previously agreed to those rules for an uncapped year in collective bargaining. Attorneys for the players’ side have said they would challenge in court any rules put in place by the league if the lockout is lifted.

The NFL is a victim of its own success. After making the game extremely popular over the last decade, fans are rightfully ticked off about this lockout. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve reached a point where I hope neither the players nor owners get what they want in the end.

An uncapped year would be great because the players ultimately won’t get what they want. The union has always wanted players to reach free agency as quickly as possible so that they can cash in great seasons. But as the Post points out, in an uncapped year players with expired contracts would need six years of NFL service to quality for free agency – not four like it would be under a cap. So there would be no “cashing in.”

In the end, both the players and owners will come to realize that their best bet was just to compromise months ago. Now they’re in a hell of their own making and I wouldn’t mind seeing both sides get burned in the process.

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