We’ve mentioned a time or two (or more) the potential end result of the current antitrust Tom Brady litigation filed by the players against the NFL.
Under lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s view of reality, a non-union NFL should have no rules of any kind among the 32 teams. That means no salary cap, no restrictions on free agency, no franchise tags, and no draft.
Kessler shrugs at the potential consequences, believing that a truly open market for player services would be good for everyone.
Commissioner Roger Goodell disagrees. In a Wednesday conference call with Giants season-ticket holders, Goodell addressed the issue directly.
“That’s something that’s troubling to me a little bit because in the [April 6] hearing, some of the lawyers for the players association talk about their vision of what would happen with the NFL and the types of things they would be challenging in court – everything from the draft to free agency rules,” Goodell said. “I think it would have a tremendously negative impact on the game of football and what everybody loves the game of football for and what has made us successful.
“I get concerned when I hear how the lawyers want to approach this and how they want to change the game for the players association,” Goodell added. “I think we have a great game that’s competitive. I think that the balance we have amongst teams is all part of our system. Aspects of those systems are always modified and changed and I’m willing to engage in that. But I think eliminating some of those aspects that I think have made our game — and frankly other sports, they are all part of other sports. The NFL has got an incredibly competitive and attractive game. We’ve got to make sure that we continue to make modifications. We’ve got to make it stronger, not weaken it.”
He’s right. The presence of a salary cap and the placement of restrictions on free agency and the use of a draft not only help ensure competitive balance among the teams, but they ensure that money will be available for the kind of “mid tier” players who reportedly are hoping to intervene in the Tom Brady antitrust litigation.
Without a franchise tag, Peyton Manning could squeeze the Colts into paying him $40 million or more per year. With or without a salary cap, that’s less money that would be available for the other guys on the team not named Peyton Manning.
With no union to negotiate minimum salaries or a mandatory per-team spending floor, non-superstars could end up making much less than they do now. The market for long snappers, for example, would be a lot lower than the mandatory minimums that the union had negotiated for all players based on years of experience.
With no draft, young superstars would bypass college (or leave after one or two years) and flock to the league, chewing up even more of the money — and nudging mid-level veterans out of jobs.
In the end, and as we’ve previously said, five percent of the players would be making 95 percent of the money. And the other 95 percent of the league’s players would have to choose between fighting for the scraps in order to play the game they love or finding real jobs.
That’s why it makes sense for other players, and perhaps other lawyers, to get involved. If Kessler gets his way, the NFL could be changed dramatically and permanently for the worse.
Of course, there’s a chance that no rules would have no ultimate impact on competitiveness, given that the concept of “team” takes on significant importance when there are 11 moving parts on the field per side (or more, if Brad Childress gets another head-coaching job). But it will affect the manner in which players are paid, and the majority of the 1,900 men who play in the NFL need protection against being paid less, not the unlimited ability to be paid more.
Given some of the names attached to the Tom Brady antitrust lawsuit, it’s safe to say that the interests of the majority of the 1,900 men who play in the NFL aren’t truly being protected and/or advanced.