Last week, the NFL owners and the Players Association struck two separate agreements to extend the deadline for the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement until this Friday at 5pm Eastern. This was hailed as the first signs of the two sides FINALLY moving towards a compromise on the key issues that divide them when trying to iron out a new CBA for the 2011 season and beyond.
All throughout this process, the group that's kind of been left twisting in the wind is us, the fans. Even though our tax dollars pay for the stadiums these owners and players use to generate their $9 billion in TV revenue, the only time the 'voice of the fan' has been heard throughout this process was when Judge Doty ruled that the owners had not re-negotiated their TV deals 'in good faith,' and thus the millions in revenue they were hoping to get, regardless of a lockout, is now in limbo.
Now, I say Doty's decision is part of the 'fan voice' because Doty is a federal judge, and government (in general) is a tool of, by, and for the people. And, from everything I've read and seen, fan's are happy with Doty's logic and judgment in his ruling against the owners.
All that said, after the Doty ruling, and after the two sides agreed to two separate extensions, for the first time there is real hope a new CBA will get signed before this Friday. After the jump, we discuss reasons why there is hope.
- With their TV revenue frozen, the owners are now much more motivated to get a deal done. Before, the prevailing notion was the owners didn't care if there was a lockout or not. Either way, they got their money. It was for this reason that folks like me, Colin, and Matt have been so staunchly anti-owner during this time. When we all heard that blowhard morons like Jerry Richardson were insulting , Richardson was doing so knowing he'd get paid regardless of whether Peyton threw a pass in 2011 or not. After the Doty ruling, to his face at the negotiating tableRichardson's bombastic decrees of 'we’re going to stick together and take back our league and [expletive] do something about it’ are now likely more subdued. People tend to shut up pretty quick when their money supply gets cut off.
- With leverage, the players are now more likely to begin seriously bargaining. Having star players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady involved was a smart decision. It puts the fans on the side of the players when they see their favorite guys 'on the front lines' of the negotiation.
- It seems, on the surface, that Roger Goodell is starting to show some signs of leading the owners rather than being their sock puppet. Perhaps this is the result of the Doty decision, muzzling the blowhards like Richardson and Jerry Jones. Now, the adults can start taking charge.
- While the sides are far apart on several critical issues, the rookie wage scale and the health benefits for retired players are likely two things the owners and players can agree on. The sticking point issues are likely the split of the $9 billion in revenue (players requested 50%, owners want more) and the 18 game season.
- Of all of the issues, I personally think 18 game season is the biggest issue mainly because it's the hardest sell. No one wants an 18 game season except these greedy owners who, let's face it, are billionaires already and only want the two extra games just so they can bleed more cash out of us broke fans. The players don't want it for fear of increased injury (ask Austin Collie if he's jazzed about playing 18 games) and the fans don't want it because football is great as it is, and messing with it will only make it worse. But, the owners see dug in on this issue, and it's possible that, as a compromise, we will see a 17 or 18 game regular season in 2010 if a new CBA is reached by Friday.
Despite all the positive vibes surrounding the CBA, the two issues I haven't heard anyone discussing are the two things I've been worried about the whole time: Revenue sharing and salary cap. Without both, the NFL dies. Small markets like Green Bay would have no chance to win a Super Bowl, and the one element that sets our league apart from all others, parity, would cease to exist.
Hopefully, in the next few days, we'll get some positive information on those two related issues. In the meantime, here's to hoping these two factions work this thing out before Friday.