The first real ramification is for the 2010 season (and Ifseason, as March is the start/finish of the league year). So we first need to get through the 2008 season, the 2009 Draft and Ifseason, the 2009 season. So, there is a lot of opportunity for teams to change before the possibility of an uncapped season arrives. Bring on the panic patrol! - of national sportswriters that is.
I'm going to look at each of these points throughout the week in regards to the CBA and the Lions:
- (tonight) What exactly are the details, what do I think will happen, and what would the impact be if it did?
- What have the Lions done, and what will they try to do, to prepare for both a capped and uncapped 2010?
- Are they in as much trouble as Clayton says?
- Final Thoughts
Okay, I've seen lots of good, bad indifferent info on this topic -- and I'm sure we'll see a lot more. Not as Lions-centric tonight as it will be after this, so my apologies; Exposition is a necessary evil.
Here is a timeline, as I can see it, for the next few seasons, assuming nothing gets done.
- 2008 Season: no changes in CBA, Lions go to playoffs as wildcard and get booted in rd 1.
- 2009 Ifseason: Cap Increases to approx $123 million. No changes
- 2009 Season: Lions go to playoffs as division champs, and lose in 2nd round. Are thus a top 8 team.
- 2010 Ifseaon: Lots of changes: Rookies are FA after 6 completed years, not 4 as current; Teams have 1 Franchise, 2 Transition tags - and can use all 3, not just one; Top 4 Teams will be severely restricted in FA, only able to sign FA equal to those they lose; Top 5-8 Teams will be limited to one large FA move (est over 3.8 mill approx deal), but unlimited deals under that amount; No Salary Cap;
- 2010 Season: Rules are the same -- Lions go to conference championships
- 2011 Ifseason: Same rules as 2010; In addition, college draft is eliminated
- 2011 Season: big Strike and Lockout at the same time as neither on realizes the other one isn't going to let them play if they want, players all start drinking heavily, get DUI's and thrown in jail in ever greater numbers as they move onto hard-core drugs and everyone decides to care about Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey again instead as the NFL is not watched even as it returns to work with some new deal in place that, thanks to lots of Patriots lobbying, allows that spygate be stricken from the records and that they get to choose any guy drafted in 2008 pick 31 or later, and add him to their roster immediately, not questions asked and take star OT Gosder Cherilus from the Detroit Lions and are allowed since he was a reach anyways.
So, did the last pert get absurd enough for you? They got it done last time, and will do so again -- If I were a betting man I'd say about March of 2010, even if they have to "postpone" the start of the league year again to finalize details.
There are a couple of points about the current CBA that do need fixing. One is that the teams have to give 60% of REVENUE to players, not profit as is often stated, but Revenue. This means ALL money that comes in from all sources before ANY expenses are deducted. What this has done is hurt larger teams, maimed moderate teams (such as the Lions), and would utterly destroy teams like Buffalo if left in place. In business, many of you may be thinking, payroll is the highest expense. 60% isn't too awful bad.
But lets look again. That is not payroll for EVERYONE that is just the 53 guys who make the roster and 8 practice squad blokes. Not: the trainers, coaches, towel guys, janitors, security, concessions employees, cost of materials for concessions, uniforms, travel, equipment, lodging and food for players and support personnel during the season and ifseason, scouting, management, facilities (like the stadium, practice fields, offices), phone bills, electricity....I think you get my point. While it is true that an NFL franchise can be quite lucrative, when the revenue sharing check is 87 million, and the cap is 115 million...you are starting to get some small teams in trouble. 40% of total dollars is what is left for profits and all those dratted other expenses. Throw in saving cash for those big Signing Bonuses players love to get -- even though the cap spreads them out over 5 or 6 years, the money still has to be paid up-front. so that again makes much more than 60% of revenues going to just the players. Looking at most other businesses, that is a disproportionately high number.
I'm not, before you get started, defending owners, excess earnings, etc. -- just saying that the current CBA was causing some serious cash-flow issues for the small franchises -- which threatens the parity that the NFL has.
The other problem is the "rookie pool" -- meant to be a rookie salary cap, it really just encourages deals that hit the cap a lot harder in subsequent years after the first -- which as the Lions know, can cause real havoc with the cap if you have top-10 picks that don't work out.
The current cap system also has a minimum spending floor -- so teams HAVE to spend just a touch over 100 million of their cap space.
All in all, I'll go opposite of what I hear many fans saying --- I think that the players have the most incentive to get the deal done before the 2010 ifseason, and that they will give enough concessions and trade-offs to the owners to get it done. The owners, in some ways, would welcome the uncapped year and the new rules -- especially the greater ability to keep players through their prime playing years.
What are the players benefits: No cap theoretically means that they will have bigger contracts, as teams try to "buy championships"; Not too much else, really, that I can see, is a significant benefit
What are the detriments to players: 6 years for FA instead of 4, three ways to be forced to stay after those years are done, inability to go as a FA to contenders as they will be limited in their FA moves.
What are plus points for owners: No minimum spending, keep drafted players longer, more ways to keep top players in their prime for less money
What are negatives: Serious restrictions on FA for perennial contenders will place even more emphasis on good drafting -- not less. No cap means it would be easier for big market teams to get and retain good players that small market teams can't afford to keep or franchise.
To me, all of this points to both sides having some pretty significant incentive to come to a deal, as I said, by March 2010. In the meantime, there are some things that teams can do to get ready just in case, and some teams are positioned well -- while others could be in trouble if 2010 happens. Anything beyond that would be mere wild speculation (and even looking to 2010 is a pretty big stretch, but I'll do it anyways because it is fun.)
Sorry if I made a lot of eyes glaze over, but this is a big issue for all teams over the next couple of years, including the Lions.