We have broken down the deal. Now let’s look at who escaped this lockout slog looking good, and who didn’t.
Veteran NFL players: They missed an offseason of minicamps and practices, which should make it easier to fend off young players in camp this year. More importantly, they will get a bigger slice of the salary cap pie.
Top rookies will make far less in this new CBA, and that money will go to veterans. Getting NFL teams to agree to a very aggressive “salary cap floor” also guarantees NFL revenue will be spent back on the players.
For example, teams have to spend to 99% of the salary cap as a league this year. The lowest any team can spend is 89% of the cap. These are huge increases from previous floors that will guarantee small market teams spend aggressively.
Players you’ve never heard of: Minimum salaries of players will go up $50,000, which is a substantial increase. Almost half the league has minimum salary contracts. The players did right by their right by the rank and file.
Bank accounts of NFL owners: The NFLPA* was playing defense all along. We essentially knew ahead of time the owners would leave this lockout with a larger share of total revenue, and that is the case.
The players made advances in other issues like safety and a salary cap floor, but ultimately the owners will now get a greater share of a rapidly growing revenue pool. This can be a “win-win” deal, but there’s no debate the owners will get more money in this CBA than the one that came before it.
That was the entire idea behind the lockout.
Small market teams: Yes, they have to spend more to get to the salary cap floor. They also will get more revenue sharing help from the top-earning teams in the league.
Mediator Arthur Boylan: Sure, the biggest breakthrough happened when he was on vacation. Boylan still kept the union and NFL moving forward during choppy waters. He helped to finish the job mediator George Cohen could not.
A special thanks to …
Patriots owner Robert Kraft: No owner did more to bring the two sides together and compromise than Patriots owner Robert Kraft. That he did it against the backdrop of his wife’s battle with cancer makes his contributions all the more remarkable.
Colts center Jeff Saturday’s remarks after the agreement said it all.
Gets his own category
DeMaurice Smith: Fans may disagree, but we suspect history will show Smith did well by his players. Let’s face it: The NFLPA* is always going to be an underdog in labor talks. They have fewer resources and they were playing defense.
Smith took over a difficult situation and slowly earned the respect of his players and adversaries in ownership. He didn’t give up that much and got plenty in return for financial concessions. Most importantly, he helped get to the finish line without missing significant time in training camp or the preseason.
The lockout was caused by owner unhappiness at a time of unprecedented prosperity in the league. They locked the players out, which has to count for something. Both sides were at fault for taking fans for granted throughout the process, and dragging this out longer than necessary. That’s why Smith isn’t a “winner” but someone that earned respect.
The 18-game concept: It will eventually be a matter of debate again, but not for at least two years. This was a big issue for the players, and they didn’t budge.
Roger Goodell: We think Goodell is a very good commissioner with the best interests of the game at heart. But there’s no denying he’s been beaten up over the last few months. Player anger towards him became significant. A perception grew that he couldn’t control his owners. (We’re not sure anyone could.)
Goodell’s efforts to end the lockout cannot be underestimated. But this is a results business: Goodell presided over the longest work stoppage in league history. In the long run, people will view the 2011 lockout as a speed bump for a wildly successful league. In the short run, the NFL can’t have it both ways.
They have sold the concept to fans on NFL Network that the “season never ends.” It ended for five months this year, running the league’s biggest fans through an emotional ringer.
This lockout came primarily as a money grab at a time of unprecedented success for the league. Considering the economic climate the lockout took place in, Goodell takes a short-term hit.
Hardcore coaches: Practice contact will be reduced dramatically in the regular season. Offseason practices will also be cut down, with big fines for coaches who break the rules.
“The only thing the players didn’t get is someone else to play for them,” one source told PFT.
Highly-drafted rookies: This especially applies to top ten picks. No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton is slated to get roughly $22 million over the next four years. For comparison’s sake, last year’s top pick Sam Bradford got $50 million guaranteed and $72 million over his first six years.
First-round picks outside the top-16 picks will take a hit, but it’s not as dramatic. Players taken in rounds two-through-seven may actually benefit because of the minimum salary increase.
All 2011 rookies: It will be harder for quarterbacks like Newton or Minnesota’s Christian Ponder to win starting gigs and succeed in camp after missing the entire offseason. This will especially hurt late-round picks and undrafted players that now seem more likely to be cut.
Undrafted players: With the per-team signing bonus expenditure limited to $75,000 per team for undrafted players, these rookies will no longer be able to tell prospective teams to put their money where their mouths are.
Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb: Perhaps the Bengals could have traded Palmer before the 2011 draft. Now it appears he may spend the 2011 season at home because he refuses to play for Cincinnati. The Bengals probably won’t entertain trading him until 2012.
McNabb would not still be a member of the Redskins if not for the lockout. With five highly drafted rookies getting taken, the market for him has been significantly diminished. His exorbitant bonus isn’t due until September, which means the Redskins may fruitlessly try to trade him for a while. More jobs will be filled in the meantime.
Vincent Jackson: Fans won’t forget that Jackson was the last Brady antitrust plaintiff to give up on squeezing the NFL for more cash in exchange for his signature. We don’t think it’s fair to call the players “greedy” throughout much of the process, but Jackson, Logan Mankins, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning took a P.R. hit by seeking extra benefits for attaching their name to the antitrust case.
NFL fans: The players and owners take us for granted because they can. We just want football, and we support the league completely. It was an insane act of hubris for the NFL to threaten to take the game away when it was at its very peak. The league isn’t likely to pay for it.
Rich Eisen from NFL Network put it well: “Love all these fans saying now we missed nothing when my twitter feed has been filled for 4 months MFing everyone involved in this process.”
The more you love the game, the more these last five months have been difficult to swallow.
The lucky part: We won’t have to go through this again for at least another decade.