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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

July 24, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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The NFL owners voted 31-0 (with Oakland abstaining) on Thursday to approve a new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league's players. The deal still needs player approval, and there is nothing locked in place until the NFLPA signs off on it, but from most accounts the deal, as it looks now, will be approved.

Exact details of the new CBA aren't yet known, but the major points of it have been put forth via various outlets. Here's the big stuff that has been published, which again is contingent to NFLPA approval:

-The new CBA will last through the 2020 season and include provisions for a 2021 NFL Draft, similar to how the last CBA was set up for this off-season's draft. The draft will remain a seven-round event, as it has been for many years now.

-The salary cap for salaries and bonuses will be $120.375 million for 2011 and no less than that for 2012 and 2013. The salary cap will be based on "a new model differentiated by revenue source with no expense reductions" according to the NFL.

-There will be a firm limit on the compensation allowed to be given per draft class; details of that are forthcoming, but believe me when I tell you that Sam Bradford's guaranteed $50,000,000 in his 2010 rookie contract will be the high water mark for guaranteed money given to a draft pick for a very, very, very long time. You know how Glenn Robinson's 100% guaranteed 10-year, $68 million rookie contract in 1994 still stands as the richest ever given to an NBA rookie? Bradford's contract will be the same way for the NFL potentially for decades to come.

-Teams will be required to spend 99 percent of their cap space in 2011 and 2012. The days of teams being several million under the cap and simply pocketing the difference are over for the short-term, and the deal calls for a salary floor of 95% for each year through 2020, except for 2016-17, which is not specified by the league's press release for reasons unknown to me.

-Some teams will be over the cap for this year as soon as it begins, and to allow some wiggle room for that, teams can borrow up to $3 million in cap room from a future year for the 2011 cap and also borrow up to $1.5 million in future cap room for the 2012 season. As this article reveals, some teams spent significantly more than $120.375 million in 2010, and there will be teams that will inevitably need to cut players to fit under the cap for this fall. But what you won't see is a disparity in salaries like there have been in the past and like there was so drastically in 2010.

-Drafted players will be allowed to sign only four-year contracts with a club option for a fifth season; undrafted free agency signees will be limited to three years contracts. There will be "limited contract terms" and "strong anti-holdout rules", the details of which remain to be seen, but which will likely limit the flexibility of players entering the league to work around the constraints the league will put in place.

-The option for teams to use a franchise or transition tag options will remain. It appears that there will still be just one tag per team per year allowed to be used. The possibility of a team using a tag on a player more than once or in consecutive years is unclear. Some teams used franchise tags on players with four or five years of experience prior to the lockout, while others rolled the dice, thinking they might be able to franchise a more vested player while being able to either restrict or match any offer for players with four or five years accrued.

-As mentioned above, players with four accrued seasons or more with expiring contracts will be eligible for unrestricted free agency; players with three accrued seasons will be restricted free agents.

This is a big deal for this off-season as there will be a massive number of unrestricted free agents on the market, and some NFL owners wanted the chance to have a right-of-first-refusal for this off-season because of the unique circumstances related to it. That ended up not making the cut, meaning that guys like Carolina DE Charles Johnson (whose original four-year deal is up and who had 11 sacks in 2010 despite a less-than-stellar supporting cast) will be in line for a huge payday on the open market.

For a look at the huge free agency class, this list from has a look at the top veteran unrestricted free agents by position.

There is more on the CBA that was summarized in this article on PFT, which includes some juicy additional tidbits:

-There will be no judicial oversight of the new CBA. This is huge. Gregg Rosenthal might have listed it at #7 of 7 on his list, but it's number one with a bullet for the NFL. I almost rewrote this entire article to put it at the very top, as it's the real news of the day.

The push for a change in CBA oversight is not just because Judge David Doty has made several rulings through the years that the NFL believes are unfair -- the league has long wanted to outright remove the CBA from the purview of the federal judicial system, allowing for a mutually agreed to arbitrator to rule on any conflicts. I can't stress enough how much the NFL wants this change to happen, with league officials believing this puts its CBA more in line for how the other major professional sports organizations in North America operate.

-Minimum salaries will rise by $50,000 from last year to this, with provisions in place for them to continue to go up. The rank-and-file players should be happy about that change.

-Top undrafted free agents will likely receive smaller signing bonuses than they did in past years. Bob McGuinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the new CBA will limit NFL clubs to a $75,000 signing bonus limit per team for all undrafted players.

The CBA is a complicated mess to try to sort through, which is why I'm sympathetic to the players who want to make sure they understand exactly what the 600 or so page new CBA includes. I've dealt with enough contracts in my life to appreciate that mindset. But indications are strong that the players will agree to the deal, allowing those of us who follow the NFL closely can shift from delving through legalese to processing what will be a massive volume of cuts, signings, and trades. Free agency is tricky enough to follow, but this will be Super Free Agency with a much higher volume of available veterans out there to go with the glut of undrafted free agents. Add in teams trying to also sign their draft picks and the result will be an unprecedented flurry of activity.

Plus, the time-honored tradition of Brett Favre possibly unretiring once again has come up -- you didn't think you'd really make it through the entire off-season without that being floated out there, did you? The idea of Favre serving as a back-up to Michael Vick would be interesting, but would the Eagles really bring Favre out of retirement yet again after his struggles in 2010? Maybe so, and someone needs to back up Vick (and it won't be Kevin Kolb). It amused me though to see "Brett Farve" trending on Twitter over the weekend. The guy is an NFL legend, and you'd think by now that people would know how to spell his last name properly.

To be clear, Jay Glazer wrote on Twitter that the Eagles aren't interested in Favre, and Glazer is a well-respected and accurate reporter. But, when it comes to Favre, I learned some time ago to never say never.

The rumor mill is hot on the notion that the Eagles will trade QB Kevin Kolb to Arizona, possibly in exchange for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and with potential additional compensation on one side or the other (or both). DRC was unheralded out of high school, ended up at Division I-AA/FCS Tennessee State, but performed well enough at TSU and in pre-draft workouts that the Cardinals used a first-round pick on him in 2008. He has been a solid corner for Arizona, but with them having drafted CB Patrick Peterson from LSU in April's draft, it could be the opinion of the Cardinals front office that giving up DRC to bring in a potential immediate starter at QB is a deal worth making. We should find out the validity of rumors associated with that soon enough.


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