As the NFL sees it, close inspection of the demands of Patriots guard Logan Mankins and Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson could very well reveal the fingerprints of Jeffrey Kessler, NFLPA* lawyer and architect of the Brady antitrust action.
It is currently believed by the league that only an effort by Kessler to overplay his hand will derail a new labor deal. The demands of Mankins and Jackson for free agency or $10 million each, could be exactly what the league feared.
Indeed, virtually every remaining issue as of Monday morning (with the exception of the league’s effort to close the California workers’ compensation loophole) represented a demand from the players, as developed and communicated by Kessler. Kessler wants $320 million in benefits that weren’t paid in the final year of a labor deal that was overwhelmingly favorable to the players, a claim that borders on the ludicrous. Kessler wants a lump sum for the “lockout insurance” case (something that, in all fairness to Kessler, the league should have expressly included when moving from its proposal regarding the revenue split to the final range of 46.5-to-48 cents). And now Kessler wants at least two of the named plaintiffs to be exempt from the rules that will apply to the rest of the 1,900 players. (Previously, Kessler wasted hours of negotiating time arguing for a franchise tag exemption on behalf of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.)
This newest hurdle, advanced in part on behalf of a receiver who should be glad he’s still in the league after a pair of DUI incidents, could have been avoided in March, if Kessler had merely advised his ultimate client, NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith, to ensure that any of the men volunteering to be named plaintiffs would leave their personal agendas at the door.
Kessler should have advised Smith to tell the men that, if they are going to want something other than the satisfaction of helping their “One Team” of NFL players, then they shouldn’t sign their name to the documents. By failing to ensure that such a commitment would be secured up front, Kessler failed his ultimate client, De Smith, and the men the NFLPA* represents.
Sure, maybe De Smith should have thought of this on his own. After all, he was a practicing lawyer before he was hired by the players’ union. But Kessler is the man at the wheel of this bus, and Kessler should have realized based on the precedent of the Reggie White case that some of the named plaintiffs would possibly want something for themselves, even if they had no role in the hard work done to settle the case.
If anything, Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth and Colts center Jeff Saturday should get the $10 million each, for spending countless hours out of their normal element for the benefit of their brethren. That contrast between Foxworth and Saturday and Mankins and Jackson makes the current behavior of the latter duo even more offensive.
And it makes Kessler’s failure to ensure that this wouldn’t happen even more unforgivable. No matter how this all shakes out, we believe it’s time for De Smith to get a new set of lawyers to represent the interests of the players.
Until then, we call on Mankins and Jackson to publicly drop their selfish demands and get out of the way. (As if anyone listens to what we have to say.) They’ve done nothing to help the process to its current point other than sign a piece of paper. They now need to be prepared to sign another piece of paper so that the process can finally end.
If they refuse, there’s always the UFL.
Oh wait. There’s always the CFL.