As the lockout continues with no end in sight — unless the Eighth Circuit lifts it — it’s important to keep in mind the fact that, as Peter King of SI.com pointed out in today’s Monday Morning Quarterback, the two sides aren’t really all that far apart.
The crux of the dispute relates to money, especially since the non-economic terms offered by the NFL on March 11 contain many very player-favorable provisions, including a drop in offseason workouts so significant to prompt at least one high-level team source to express relief that the players didn’t accept the offer. As to the fight over money, the formula had shifted from a procedure that takes a lump sum off the top for the owners and divides the rest. Instead, the parties were focusing on a “pegged cap” concept, with a fixed figure for salary and benefits determined in each year of the deal.
Though the gap was $10 million per team in 2011, the league agreed to the players’ request of $161 million per team in the fourth year of the deal. The most significant difference came from the question of whether and to what extent the players would receive a portion of the revenues earned over and above the projections on which the cap numbers are based. The parties had been negotiating a system for sharing the money, but the NFL’s offer omitted that term.
The impact of that maneuver depends on perspective. From the players’ point of view, the move was interpreted as a message that there would be no sharing in the excess; that if the players were to receive guaranteed salary cap numbers without regard to actual revenue generation, they were not entitle to a piece of the upside. From the league’s point of view, the players needed only to make a response to the March 11 offer, including a suggested formula for sharing the excess.
We’re not sure what is or isn’t true about the “true up,” but we are sure that the only way to find out whether the league is telling the truth is to respond to the March 11 offer.
Progress cannot and will not be made until the players respond to the league’s most recent offer. We assume that the players haven’t responded because they have instead chosen to see whether the Eighth Circuit lifts the lockout.
If the lockout isn’t lifted, the players’ first order of business should be to respond to the March 11 offer. Until that happens, there’s simply no hope for football to be played in August, September, or beyond.