When this entire labor situation began, long before the lockout and the court cases began, the league repeatedly made the case that the economic model the league was operating under at the time was “broken” and unsustainable. They maintained that the last deal made with NFL players was weighted far too much toward the players side.
Thus, the league opted out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement so that they could basically get back the concessions they made during negotiations between the two sides in 2006 when then commissioner Paul Taglibue and then head of the NFLPA Gene Upshaw made sure labor peace would stay intact for Taglibue’s retirement.
Fast forward to today. The lockout has long past the point of being the longest work stoppage the league has ever seen. The owners, based on all the reporting that I find credible, have gotten back a whole lot of what they gave away back in 2006, if not more. The players have offered an “all revenue” model that pretty much gives the owners what they’ve sought from the beginning – a large recalibration of the percentage of the pie being given to the players.
On top of this, the owners would still be allowed expense credits for funding of stadium construction. The rookie wage scale, which has reportedly been slowing down talks of late, is already a huge win for the owners. Now they are simply trying to squeeze out a fifth year for first round deals. In addition, the league is set to expand its Thursday night package to go all season long – a boon to revenue streams but a development that is hated by most players, not to mention coaches due to the short weeks it gives teams to rest and prepare.
The one area where the players can honestly claim a victory is the owners reported concession to a mandatory minimum spending increase on the salary cap floor, requiring teams to spend close to a hundred percent of the salary cap. Not only that, it would require real cash spending – no more theoretical cap figures for general managers to play around with.
Despite this concession, the owners are coming out ahead in almost every other way. And really, that was expected. But the deadline for getting teams into camp and preseason games played is fast approaching. With both the players side and the league putting out statements this morning saying its time to make a deal, the time has come for both sides to put up or shut up.
However, the possibility exists that things could stall, fall apart, go backward – whatever. If that happens, and regular season games end up being missed, make no mistake – it will be because the owners were unwilling to compromise. The players have moved plenty off their position while the league has stood mostly still.
It’s time for Roger Goodell and DeMaruice Smith to grab the coffee and get this done.