Though we’d love to see NFL owners emerge from the annual league meetings with a commitment to getting a deal done on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the simple reality is that any new agreement most likely won’t be finalized until the 2010 season ends.
Now that the salary cap — and salary floor — have disappeared, the owners simply won’t want to change the rules midstream. Although, in theory, the deal can be finalized with new salary cap provisions that would apply after the coming season has ended, the likelihood of hammering out an agreement absent anything other than a genuine deadline will be impossible, given the current tone between management and labor.
So why wasn’t a deal done before the launch of the 2010 league year? The widespread thinking is that the owners wanted to proceed without a cap. And there’s an emerging view that more than a few of them wanted to proceed without a floor.
As we pointed out last week, roughly 25 percent of the league would be south of the 2009 floor, if a cap were in place. For some of the teams, the actual cash commitments for 2010 will be much lower. (We’re in the process of getting the numbers.) The thinking is that this will allow teams to pocket significant windfalls this year, spending far less than they would have forked over under the prior rules, while still making equivalent money.
One league source has summarized the situation perfectly. Fans of teams that will be spending well below the minimum that would have applied are paying the same price for tickets, but getting a product that was compiled much more cheaply.
And those fans should be upset.
So if the union is looking for ammunition to use in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the fans, we suggest abandoning hollow efforts to suck up to retired players and focusing more directly on the folks who’ll be directly affected by paying the same amount of money for the privilege to go to games, and getting a lot less by way of roster quality.
Though it might not be enough to force a compromise, it would be a much more effective way to demonstrate to the paying customers the manner in which the current labor situation already is impacting the game than anything else the union currently is employing.