Deal reached on NFL rookie wage scale

DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association Executive Director arrives for labor negotiation meetings between the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association in New York, July 14, 2011. The National Football League and some of the game’s top quarterbacks agreed on Wednesday it is time to reach an agreement to end a four-month-old lockout rather than risk disrupting the start of the 2011 season. REUTERS/Jamie Fine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The NFL and the players are heading towards a settlement now that the rookie wage scale has been agreed to.

You can start studying to get a leg up on your fantasy football draft, and you can book that trip to Vegas for a weekend in the sports book!

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Owners renege on revenue sharing

I’m sure Mr. Stalter will go into more detail later on today, but I wanted to throw out this tidbit from CBS’ Mike Freeman about the regression in the NFL’s labor negotiations:

Based on interviews with several people familiar with the discussions this is what happened. The players thought they had an agreement on the important split of overall revenue. In fact, despite the protestations to players in a conference call, the NFLPA believed a deal was indeed near. Then, the sources stated, owners suddenly reversed course, and offered models that had been previously rejected by the players.

Come on, owners. Now’s not the time to be moving backwards on comprimises to which you’ve already agreed.

Enjoy it this year NFL fans, because there may not be a draft in 2012

For the past two days, columnist Michael Silver has taken to the pages of Yahoo! Sports and Twitter to rant about the NFL draft.

No, not because he thinks it’s wrong for the NFLPA to instruct top prospects not to attend Radio City Music Hall next month and no, not to lash out about the fact that players and owners are ruining the Holy Grail of the NFL offseason.

He’s ranting that the NFL draft should become yet another victim of the current labor dispute.

Silver offers a cold dose of reality when it comes to the draft: that it’s not as important as 1,7000 players fighting for their financial livelihoods. And as much as I’d like to punch him in the ear and tell him to get on board with the rest of us draftnits, he’s right.

He’s also right about something that will really make devote draft followers sick to their stomachs: The fact that there may not be a draft in 2012 if the owners and players can’t agree to a new CBA.

In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, the draft is kind of … how shall I say this gently? … illegal. The notion that a person trying to ply his trade can be denied the opportunity to negotiate his/her services on the open market – in this case, that he is prohibited from signing with 31 of the NFL’s 32 franchises – isn’t simply un-American; it’s also a violation of federal law.

In fact, the controversy over the upcoming draft would likely be moot if not for a stipulation in the recently expired CBA that this year’s draft would proceed as scheduled. Otherwise, the players would have had an excellent chance of convincing a judge to disallow it. And if there’s still no CBA a year from April, even if the players are successful in blocking the lockout and the owners merely impose rules while the two sides wage their fight over the antitrust lawsuit, you can forget about a draft happening in 2012.

Even though the situation looks bleak, I’m willing to bet that most fans believe everything will eventually work out. That there will be a football season next year and the events of these past months will fade away once that ball is placed on the tee in Week 1. But Silver makes a great observation here. If the courts rule against the owners’ lockout, that doesn’t mean that a new CBA will be put in place. The players and owners still have to agree to a new deal and thus, we could be back to square one after next season even though the lockout has ended. How nauseating does that sound?

In the meantime, we can still enjoy the draft but read Silver’s column in full and then tell me you’re still excited for the end of April to come. Personally, I think Silver’s anti-draft rants can be toned down a notch. He seems to be revealing in the fact that he has solid points and those points suck the life right out of whatever excitement fans still have left about this offseason. As a NFL fan and a diehard draft follower myself I want to say to him, “Are you enjoying all of this, Eyebrows? Are you enjoying the fact that we don’t have free agency and trade rumors to chew on for the next couple of months and now the powers at be are also trying to ruin the draft, too? Because it sure seems like it.”

But as a realist, I say: “Damn it Silver, right on.”

Were the owners more flexible in negotiations than players?

NFL Executive Vice-President and General Counsel Jeff Pash (C) talks to reporters about negotiations with players association representatives as they seek an agreement as a deadline looms for a player lockout, in Washington, March 4, 2011. The NFL and the players’ union agreed to extend talks on a new collective agreement for another week, the League-owned NFL Network reported Friday. The chief sticking point in the talks is how to distribute the league’s $9 billion in annual revenues. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL BUSINESS)

Jim Trotter of wrote a great piece about the breakdown of the NFL labor talks and in the article, he writes that the owners felt they were more flexible in the negotiations than the players were.

Owners also argue they were more flexible in the negotiations than the players. On Friday the two sides were $640 million apart on the 2011 salary cap number; the NFL offered to split the difference. The union, however, would not move from its best offer of an additional $137.5 million a year for four years without a detailed accounting of each team’s books, a demand it had requested as early as May 2009. Says Pash, “In November ’09 we asked for an 18 percent rollback, and we didn’t get that either. Demands that you make before your first-ever face-to-face bargaining session might not be where you end up two years later.”

Ultimately, players contend that the owners initiated the standoff, so the burden of proof rests with them. “Not once have the players asked for more money during this negotiation,” Brees said on Friday. “Past players sacrificed a great deal to give us what we have now, and we will not lay down for a second to give that up.”

It may come down to a court to decide if they have to.

Because of the media blackout, there’s not a whole lot of information available on this labor dispute. Of course the owners are going to feel like they were more flexible, as I’m sure the players felt like they were more than fair with their demands. We the fans and media can only go off of what certain people tell us because we weren’t in the meeting rooms.

That said, there’s a real possibility that the union overplayed its hand here. They knew they had an advantage in talks once Judge David Doty ruled that the owners couldn’t use the $4 billion from renegotiated TV contracts to fund their lockout. The players then figured that if they decertified and their case went in front of a judge, they always had Doty (who has ruled often ruled in the players’ favor when it comes to previous NFL cases) in their back pocket.

Thus, when the owners came to the table with a last-second proposal on Friday before the lockout, the players wouldn’t budge on their offer. But they may have screwed themselves because Judge Susan Nelson will oversee their case, not Doty. So while they still could wind up winning big, they may have bypassed a decent offer and a way to end this charade before the CBA expired last week. Instead, they decided to go to court and now here we are.

When the dust finally settles on this issue, I wonder which side will have more regret: the owners for not opening their books (even though they did agree to show the players five years worth of aggregated league wide profitability information), or the players for not taking that last-second proposal last Friday.

Turn of events? Judge Nelson will oversee players’ case against NFL, not Judge Doty.

Domonique Foxworth (L) of the Baltimore Ravens and Kevin Mawai (C), former player for the Tennessee Titans and current NFL Players Association president, depart with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith (2nd R) after a day of negotiations with football team owners as they seek an agreement as a deadline looms for a player lockout, in Washington, March 3, 2011. Man at far right is unidentified. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)

Since the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement last Friday, I’ve become awfully bitter when it comes to the NFL and NFLPA. So when I read, “Judge Nelson and not Judge Doty will be overseeing the Brady v. NFL case,” I can’t help but laugh.

The only reason the players went through Minnesota to file their claim was because it was Judge David S. Doty’s district. As the media has made everyone aware of, Judge Doty has been player-friendly when it comes to cases against the league. So when the players decertified last Friday, they thought they would have an advantage in court because Doty would be overseeing their case. But now that Judge Susan Richard Nelson is in charge, things may have shifted.

In other words, the players may not have an advantage now.

When the dust settles on this labor dispute, here’s hoping that neither side wins. Obviously I want there to be football next fall, but it would be nice if the greedy players and the even greedier owners didn’t walk away feeling like they won anything. Seeing as how they don’t care about the fans, I think that’s fair. The NFL spent a decade building its popularity and taking the fans’ money at every turn, now it’s become a victim of its own success. The players and owners can’t figure out a way to share $9 billion and the fans are left hanging because of it. So let both sides lose something in this war.

The owners thought they had a huge trump card when it came to the TV revenue. Then Judge Doty ruled that they couldn’t use that money to financially support a lockout and the owners took one to the gut. Now the players, who thought they had a trump card of their own in Judge Doty when they decided to reject the owners’ proposal last Friday and decertify, just took one on the chin themselves by getting Judge Nelson to oversee their case.

Thus far, neither side is winning and I love it.

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