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The 2010 NFL Holdout Epidemic

This offseason it seems like there's a player looking for a new contract wherever you look. Even in places that are largely untouched by public disputes like Indy. The Colts have been very good at keeping contract negotiations private and in-house, free from public demands, pronouncements and bad blood, but this year they have several holdouts simmering while around the league many players are pushing for a new deal, including guys under contract for years to come like Chris and Andre Johnson. Why is the heat seemingly turned up on the annual offseason pushes for new contracts?

The looming threat of a lockout in 2011 looks like an obvious cause. These are just skirmishes before the owners and union sit down and attempt to hammer out a new CBA. A signing bonus on a new extension would likely cover the lost salary if a lockout came to pass and losing a year of salary would be a blow to the players no matter what their salary. While empathizing with guys that make 6-7 figures a year isn't easy in tough financial times, it does help understanding to realize that while most people if worst came to worst would have a shot at similarly paying jobs to their previous one, NFL players would have next to no chance to maintain their income level elsewhere. The pressure is on players financially.

Unfortunately for them the same uncertainty will make their push for new deals more of an uphill battle than usual. No owner will be excited to lay out a big signing bonus when they might not be fielding a team in 2011.

On the brighter side a major contributor to the delay on a new CBA was the pending American Needle case before the Supreme Court. The case was to have massive influence on the owners bargaining position. A victory, a declaration that the NFL was 1 business made up of 32 teams, rather than 32 businesses, would have given the owners a leg up on the union that likely would have allowed them to easily roll back many of the changes to the last CBA which had led to their early opt-out from it. However their case was soundly defeated before the Supreme Court. Hopefully this will bring the owners to the table seriously, now that they know they won't have the advantageous position the American Needle case could have provided, and we'll have NFL in 2011. For now though, we'll see effects of the uncertainty in public contract disputes.