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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

March 3, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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As of this writing, the Collective Bargaining Agreement in place between the NFL and the NFL Players Association will expire at midnight Eastern tonight. But, literally as I write this, there is talk of the CBA deadline being extended. Extending the deadline was reportedly the idea of the NFL, with the NFLPA reps expressing interest in going along with an extension -- but only if they believe that the owners are negotiating a new deal with them in good faith.

There are many sides and angles to this story, a complicated mix of contracts and earnings statements that are under the influence of the current international economic depression. Even those on the same side have different agendas: every NFL owner is wealthy, but each owner's situation is different.

Jerry Jones in Dallas with his billion dollar Arlington stadium is in an entirely different position than, say, Ralph Wilson in Buffalo. Wilson's team plays in an aging stadium and now holds some home games in Toronto. But, despite those differences, the owners are, by and large, mostly all on the same side.

To point, no matter what you read about the topic, keep in mind that the core issue in play is how the billions (and billions) of dollars generated by the league will be divvied up between the owners and the players. Any other issues are secondary to that. Even quibbling amongst owners about how the league splits their TV contract money is secondary.

18 game regular seasons, years of service needed for free agency, player safety (and the rise of knowledge about CTE), the absence of the NFL in Los Angeles -- all of those issues are in the shadow of the vast stacks of cash that the NFL is set to generate over the next 5-6 years. And, ultimately, that's what caused the owners to opt out early from the existing CBA.

Despite this being a battle over money, there are relevant sub-plots in play. One involves federal judge David Doty, a 81-year-old former Marine who has been a thorn in the NFL's side for years. On Tuesday, Judge Doty ruled that the NFL violated the CBA with its TV deals, which were set to allow payment to the NFL in the event of a lockout. The NFL plans to appeal, but for now it tilts the negotiating leverage in the NFLPA's favor.

If you remember nothing else from this article, burn this sentence written by Andrew Brandt into your memory: "The NFL cannot be rid of Judge Doty’s oversight of the CBA fast enough." Doty has been involved with all sorts of ruling that, in general, have not favored the NFL. He presided over the Freeman McNeil trial in 1992, a landmark ruling where a jury determined that the NFL "Plan B" free agency system violated antitrust laws. That ruling paved the way for the modern NFL free agency system that went into place in 1993.

It's not just Doty, though, who is the problem in the eyes of the NFL, though believe me when I tell you that the owners don't believe him to be unbiased. But with or without Doty, the NFL owners want to end the current system where a federal court has oversight over part of the CBA of the NFL and its unionized workforce. From the league's perspective, this is untenable and cannot be part of any new agreement.

There have been a slew of signings in the NFL today, with deals made ahead of the end of the current CBA. Most interesting might be Jeremy Shockey, most recently of the Saints, agreeing to an undisclosed deal with the Carolina Panthers. A.J. Hawk, one day after being cut by the Packers, has agreed to a new long-term deal with the team.

Update: as I was proof-reading this article for publication, news broke that the CBA deadline has been extended for another 24 hours.


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