With a March 5 deadline for getting a new labor agreement negotiated in order to avoid a season without a salary cap, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged on Sunday night the reality that the 17-year-old device for preventing the big market/small market disparity that has ruined baseball will be going away, at least for a year.
Goodell told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen that a year without a salary cap is “virtually certain.”
“The real core message here is that we all want to get a fair
agreement, for the players, for the owners, to allow the game to
continue to grow,” Goodell said. “There are conversations going on,
that’s a positive step. But we’re all frustrated there’s not more
There seems to be little frustration regarding the disappearance of the spending limit, and the corresponding evaporation of the spending minimum. Other limitations will apply in order to prevent a Red Sox-Yankees domination of the player-acquisition market, such as six years of service to qualify for free agency and the “final eight plan,” which will limit the ability of the teams appearing in the divisional round to sign unrestricted free agents.
But there seems to be a consensus that the long-term interests of the league are best served by the presence of a salary cap. In years past, the late Gene Upshaw, who rand the NFLPA for more than two decades, vowed that, if the cap went away, it would never return. This time around, the union has not suggested a desire to operate without a cap — since to do so would mean the permanent absence of the spending floor.
And given that a spread of nearly $20 million exists between the minimum and the maximum, one prudent course of action for the union would be to tighten the gap, pushing the floor closer to the ceiling. Such a move would pump more money into the system, for the benefit of all players.
Still, with no urgency to get a deal done before March 2010, the eleventh hour has now been shifted to early 2011. Basically, then, we’ll see more preening and posturing until the moment that the two sides get serious about doing a deal — and that moment is still at least 12 months away.