Thanks for nothing, Arthur Boylan.
As the U.S. Magistrate Judge who presided over the labor talks like a referee and then decided to leave the stadium with the ball inside the five starts his vacation, some believe that the process can continue without him, given the threat of the looming loss of preseason revenue. We’re not so sure that’s the case.
A source with knowledge of the dynamics of the negotiations tells us that the league and the players are at a stalemate on the issue of the rookie wage scale.
Per the source, the owners still are pushing for five-year contracts for first-round picks. But that approach would make it harder for truly great players to be properly compensated before making it through five years with enough left in the tank to justify a big contract. That would actually make it better for great players to slide into round two, since the players would be eligible for free agency, or at a minimum the franchise tag, after four years of play.
The league’s general concern is valid. Too much money flows out of the system when top-ten draft picks become busts. Also, the magnitude of those contracts possibly contributes to a player becoming a bust, by causing him to become complacent or by making him believe he doesn’t have to listen to teammates, coaches, or anyone. But the league seems to be trying to leverage that concern into a solution that goes much farther than it needs to.
Making the league’s position even more confusing is the apparent reality that the salary floor will creep within five or so points of the salary cap, forcing teams to spend money. So why do they want to lock up first-round draft picks to subpar contracts? The league would likely contend that teams will have no choice but to extend truly great first-round picks before their initial contracts expire. While that may be true for quarterbacks and high-profile skill position players, the men who toil in anonymity easily could remain anonymous until they finish that fifth NFL season.
Regardless of how it all works out, it needs to work out before the lockout can end. And while few dispute that a rookie wage scale needs to be put in place, the league needs to be fair and reasonable on this point, or much of the money that would be redistributed via a rookie wage scale will be lost once preseason games begin to be canceled.
But it will be hard for anything to work out until Boylan comes back.
If the league and the players would like to prove us wrong on that, we’d have no complaints.