Despite a vague sense that the first first-round deal of the 2010 rookie class could come during the Fourth of July weekend, it’s looking less and less likely that something will happen before reality returns on Tuesday.
It’s not a surprise; many teams have shut it down, and with coaches and key personnel on vacation it’s unlikely that business will be done. Still, in past years, contracts have been negotiated regardless of whether the calendar suggests that we should be observing a holiday.
The question of whether the contracts at the top of the draft will come slowly this year remains a subject of debate. Some league insiders think that teams will get players signed in the hopes of not giving the union any more evidence that could bolster a collusion case.
Albert Breer of the Boston Globe recently pointed to the other side of the coin.
As Breer explains, one point of contention will be the second-year option bonus. If the owners lock out the players before the date on which the second-year balloon payment comes due, the payment will at best be delayed. Potentially, the payment will be completely denied, if there’s no football in 2011.
We find that latter point hard to fathom. If the 2011 season is wiped away by a work stoppage, the individual player contracts most likely will toll for a full year. So the option bonuses would be paid in 2012.
Even if the contracts don’t toll, it will be easy for the agents to include a clause ensuring that the money will be paid whenever football returns.
Breer also mentions another key piece of leverage teams will have this year. Any player who holds out for the entire season could be missing two full years of football, if there’s no football in 2011.
And here’s another twist to the bargaining power. Even if there’s no work stoppage next year, a near-certain rookie wage scale will strip away the windfall contained in the top 10 or 15 contracts. So, basically, players can either take the lowball offer that a team makes now, or they can risk getting far less in the same draft slot later.
That said, some of the folks in the know have yet to sound alarm. Maybe they’re simply viewing the glass at ten-percent full.