NFL Owners did what we were all expecting them to do this morning by voting to shorten the current Collective Bargaining Agreement from 2013 to 2011. So what does it mean for the future of the NFL? I'm, honestly, not well versed in the specifics of the CBA or negotiations between the players union and owners so I'll leave it to NFL.com to explain the potential consequences and repercussions of today's decision:
What does this mean to fans and games on the field?
Even without another agreement, NFL football will be played without threat of interruption for at least the next three seasons. The 2008 and 2009 seasons will be played with a salary cap. If there is no new agreement before the 2010 season, that season will be played without a salary cap under rules that also limit the free agency rights of the players. If not extended, the agreement would expire at the end of the 2010 league year.
We are resolved to do our best to achieve a fair agreement that will allow labor peace to continue through and beyond the 2011 season.
What are the issues?
A collective bargaining agreement has to work for both sides. If the agreement provides inadequate incentives to invest in the future, it will not work for management or labor. And, in the context of a professional sports league, if the agreement does not afford all clubs an opportunity to be competitive, the league can lose its appeal.
The NFL earns very substantial revenues. But the clubs are obligated by the CBA to spend substantially more than half their revenues – almost $4.5 billion this year alone -- on player costs. In addition, as we have explained to the union, the clubs must spend significant and growing amounts on stadium construction, operations and improvements to respond to the interests and demands of our fans. The current labor agreement does not adequately recognize the costs of generating the revenues of which the players receive the largest share; nor does the agreement recognize that those costs have increased substantially -- and at an ever increasing rate -- in recent years during a difficult economic climate in our country. As a result, under the terms of the current agreement, the clubs’ incentive to invest in the game is threatened.
There are substantial other elements of the deal that simply are not working. For example, as interpreted by the courts, the current CBA effectively prohibits the clubs from recouping bonuses paid to players who subsequently breach their player contacts or refuse to perform. That is simply irrational and unfair to both fans and players who honor their contracts. Also irrational is that in the current system some rookies are able to secure contracts that pay them more than top proven veterans.
So obviously there is the potential for disaster after the 2010 season. If things aren't worked out before the 2010 season, that season would be an uncapped year and 2011 would likely be a lockout or strike year. I'll go on record saying that I highly doubt guarantee that we won't see either of those things happen. Everyone involved knows what a good thing they have, owners are making money hand over fist and players salaries are on a meteoric rise. Parity is ruling the league, thanks to the salary cap and free agency and I can't imagine a situation where we see a return to the 'old way' of football (no free agency and true dynasties each decade).
UPDATE: I ran across this Peter King (not a big fan of his analysis but he's plugged into all things NFL) article that details exactly what it would mean for the NFL if a new deal isn't reached by 2010. Interesting stuff for sure, including two extra years before players reach free agency, an extra franchise or transition tag and the 'top 8 teams be restricted in free agency. All it all it's not as 'player friendly' as you'd think an 'uncapped' league would be. Basically the bottom line is that it's better for all those involved to get a deal done.