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NFL Lockout: Players Would Be Wise To Consider Retirement Benefits In New CBA

We all hate the NFL lockout. Most of us think it is ridiculous that to get a labor deal you have to lock out your workers and then have court cases, injunctions, appeals and all sorts of rhetoric. I get that a lockout is a labor tool to get labor peace, as the league claims. I get that a union decertification is a tactic to avoid a lockout. But at the end of the day, it comes down to an actual deal and not all the other stuff.

It seems like forever ago, but the league made an offer to the players that was supposedly the worst deal ever offered to a players union. Perhaps it was, but perhaps the players are looking short-sightedly at one part of the deal.

Essentially, the players claim that they would be taking a pay cut. Whether this would actually be true is one thing. It freed up money because rookies would not be paid as much and would raise the salary floor (the bottom payroll amount allowed for teams) to 90 percent of the salary cap for a few years. So maybe it would be a pay cut or maybe a pay raise. 

The one part that is interesting is that the league's offer included some things that the players should pay attention to. In fact, it is what Mike Ditka has been shouting from the hills about -- retired players. 

The new deal would increase retiree pensions and would allow current players to stay on the NFL health plan after retiring. 

NFL players have a very small window in which to earn their money and ideally it should be enough for the rest of their life. But not everyone is wise. In fact, everyone in any field, no matter how much they earn can fall upon hard times after retiring. The issue is that most people retire when they are old, not when they are in their 20s or 30s. 

If players are thinking long-term (like good money people do), they would be wise to consider their retirement benefits. A little less money in player salary with an increase in pension equals greater long-term security. 

In Arizona, public employees are part of the Arizona State Retirement System. It is a pretty good deal. Once vested, you take the number of years of service credited and you multiply it by a multiplying factor, ranging from 2.1 to 2.3, depending on the years of service. That number represents the percentage of your highest 36 month average in the last 60 months of employment you will receive as your retirement benefit. Someone who works 30 years gets the 2.3 factor and would earn 69 percent of their salary essentially for the rest of their life.

Public employees, though, like teachers and the like, make less than they would if they were in the private sector. Plus, while working as a public employee, your wages/salary are reduced because of a mandatory contribution to the retirement fund, which is about 10 percent right now. But this short-term sacrifice is rewarded with long-term security.

When it comes down to the salary numbers, I am not saying the players necessarily have to take drastically less money. However, if to get the long-term security of health coverage and increased pensions requires some sacrifice in present salaries, in my opinion they should do it. 

After all, unlike most, NFL players will be retired for a far longer period of time than their actual career. For normal people, that does not happen.