Various league officials and owners have used the same word when describing the offer made last week to the players.
But fair is in the eye of the beholder, and the question isn’t whether the person who made an offer thinks it was fair, but whether the recipient of the offer reaches that same conclusion.
So we asked Eagles president Joe Banner, who was involved in the negotiation process, to explain during a visit to ProFootballTalk Live why he believes the offer was fair. Our friends at the Eagles’ official website transcribed the answer, along with the rest of the interview.
“Well, I think, as briefly as I can, there are a number of non-dollar issues,” Banner said. “There are things I’ve mentioned around the offseason work schedule, life-long health benefits, a legitimate way to try to address the players that retired before 1993 that we all recognize are an important part of where we are today, improved work conditions, health insurance, the issue of 16 games vs. 18 games. On those positions, the specific proposals that the union made on almost all of those issues were adopted or virtually adopted in the league’s final proposal. So obviously there were a significant number of consequential concessions, from our perspective, in that. Then, as I just mentioned, the league held very firm on a rookie system that was a significant change from the first round previously but offered to maintain the position for all the other draft picks consistent with what it was developing from 2008, 2009, 2010 and would continue to progress, and did seek a significant restructuring of the first round.
“Really to say that, fairly, a really significant restructuring of probably about the first dozen picks, a moderate restructuring maybe of the next dozen picks then a very slight restructuring of the 10 picks who would follow after that. And then with respect to the economics, we would split the difference which, as I just said, left from our perspective the veterans in a position because of the adjustments to the rookie pool to actually be similar to, in a very short time significantly better off, than they were under the old proposals. It seems like other than the sacrifices being asked of the first-round draft picks, that was a very significant move in a fairly neutral place. I don’t think anybody had illusions that they were going to come back and say yes. But certainly a place from which was very reasonable to anticipate a continuation of negotiations and it certainly warranted a counter-proposal reflective of that kind of movement or affirmation of some of the issues that have been negotiated over the week of the players’ position of those issues.
“I think in summary that’s why. I mean I think the one specific part of it I could add, if you looked going forward over the next four years this would produce somewhere between $19 and $20 billion dollars in cap and benefits for the players. If you look back at the last four years, that number was a little bit over $17 billion dollars. I know we’re talking numbers that are hard for the average fan to relate to, but you are talking about a significant increase over the next four years vs. the past four years in the combination of cap and benefits to the players and in a formula that accomplishes what the owners needed to do in there to be able to get the game and keep it as strong as it is by doing things like investing in stadiums and investing in the NFL Network and assuming the operating costs on these new stadiums. That was long-winded, but I think that’s why we thought it was a fair proposal and one that certainly would warrant a continuation of discussions.”
Here’s what we take away from Banner’s comments. First, and as the folks at NFLLabor.com immediately noticed, Banner said that the league offered to pay to the players more than $2 billion more over the next four years than what had been paid to players over the last four years. (Rosenthal noticed it, too, which I didn’t notice before writing this piece.) The increase in real dollars results from ongoing growth of the pie, even as the players’ piece of it shrinks, along with the changes to the procedure for paying first-round draft picks.
Second, it’s now abundantly clear that the offer made by the league wasn’t expected to be accepted. Instead, the league was hoping to do enough to get another extension. Given the general feeling of frustration emanating from the players’ camp regarding the amount of time spent sitting around (as Cardinals kicker Jay Feely explained earlier this week on PFT Live), it’s safe to assume that the players didn’t really want to be jerked around for several more days before the league got serious as the next extended deadline approached.
Third, and as we’ve said before and will continue to say again, the offer needs to be met with a response from the players, and the negotiations need to continue. We firmly believe that a majority, at a minimum, of the players would be in favor of continuing talks. And we fear that a small minority of lawyers and/or players have decided that they know better, and that they have decided to blindly push the legal process through the April 6 hearing under the assumption that a preliminary injunction lifting the lockout will be granted.
If it isn’t, and when the league picks up significant leverage in the wake of such a ruling, the folks calling the shots now will have a lot of explaining to do to their constituents and/or clients.
Here’s hoping that some of those constituents and/or clients demand an explanation starting tomorrow, when the NFLPA* gathers for its annual meeting in Marco Island, Florida.