As best we can tell, there are two primary issues that need to be resolved before the labor deal can be worked out. First, the league and the players need to figure out how best to reconstitute the union. Second, the league and the players need to agree on the length of the deal.
On the latter point, the league has approved a deal that covers a firm 10 years. The players want the ability to cancel the contract after seven years.
Moments ago, a league source who best can be described as the closest thing to neutral in this process (if anything, the source is positioned to be more aligned with the players’ interests) explained why the deal should cover a full and firm 10 years, with no opt out for either side.
First, if revenue continues to grow, the deal will never be bad for the players. NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith has pushed the owners from wanting to pay the players 40 cents of every dollar earned up to 48 cents per dollar. Though 49ers linebacker and team player representative Takeo Spikes said Friday on ESPN that inflation could be a factor down the road, inflation never will be a factor when the players are getting paid on the gross revenue generated by the owners, who will necessarily adjust prices to reflect inflation, since the owners are getting the other 52 cents of each dollar.
Second, if the revenue shrinks, it won’t matter whether the players aren’t happy with the deal. They’d still be paid on the gross, and the league wouldn’t be likely to give the players a bigger piece of an unexpectedly shrinking pie.
Third, the upside will be better if the league can sell long-term labor peace to the networks. The source of big money over the next decade will be TV contracts, and the folks who’ll decide how much to pay for the privilege of broadcasting NFL games will be more comfortable with the notion of locking in at huge numbers if the dark clouds of labor unrest can’t return until 2021, at the earliest.
And so the players who are pushing for the opt out need to ask themselves a frank and candid question: Am I doing this simply because I don’t like the fact that the owners opted out of the last deal, and I want to have the ability to make them worry about whether we will do it, too?
If the TV money weren’t potentially going to be impacted by the potential uncertainty, the best move would be for the league to agree to the opt out, confident that the players won’t. But with the networks looking for long-term peace in order to break out long-term billions, this needs to be a 10-year deal, with no opt out.
If that means the players need to take a little more time to figure things out, so be it. But with this being the only truly substantive point left, they need to do it soon. At some point, here’s hoping that the players will decide that 10 years makes sense for everyone.