Hello once again and welcome to the Lions Congregation! This week, the congregation takes a look at a question posed by panel member Net Rat. As regular readers know, contracts and cap issues are his forte. We also received a couple of emails to the Lions Congregation asking us to share our thoughts on the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (or CBA) as negotiations between the Union and the Owners are underway right now, and how that may pertain to the Lions. Do you have a question, thought, or topic you would like to see the Lions Congregation tackle? Email us at email@example.com
This week’s panel:
1. What would you like to see in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)?
NetRat: I’m going to link directly to NetRat’s full response here. Please give it a full read, as this is his forte and he has many thoughts, as well as background information on the past agreements, current agreement, and other tidbits.
Ty: The #1 issue that has to be addressed is rookie salaries. The NFL draft is supposed to be a boon to weaker teams, boosting up the bottom feeders by handing them gamebreaking franchise players, and challenging the elite by forcing them to pick from scraps.
Now, however, it’s the other way around: teams are desperately scrambling to get away from the top few picks, and every top rookie who doesn’t make it is a millstone around their franchise’s neck. Roster spots and starting roles are handed out to players who’ve never played a down, and rookies face intense pressure to produce immediately or be cut. Meanwhile, veterans who’ve earned their keep have to hit the bench, take a pay hit, or hit the road.
The problem for the union will be making sure that the clubs really do redistribute those rookie dollars to veterans, and not just hoard the savings . . .
A pie-in-the-sky thing for me would be either a significant expansion of NFL rosters, or the establishment of an NFL developmental league. There are far too many good football players who catch one bad break and are never heard from again . . . the Arena League can’t stay solvent, and the CFL is a very different game. With the dissolution of NFL Europa, there are a lot of good kids who can play bouncing from team to team, trying desperately to catch on.
I’d love to see an NFLDL, NFLJV, or whatever. I don’t know if it’d be better in the offseason or during the regular season on alternate nights (like Wednesdays), but they have to make it easier for for the 6th-round, 7th-round, UDFA types to make a living in football while developing into NFL-ready players. Further yet, if they go to an 18-game season, it’ll be necessary to have more players on the roster–and more youngsters ready to step in.
Al: I have had more than my fill of strikes, lockouts, scabs and bad faith negotiating in all of pro sports. When millionaires are battling with billionaires over more cash than Scrooge McDuck, Tony Stark, Montgomery Burns and Hank Scorpio have combined, there is no winner in the eyes of a fan. Just a bunch of greedy SOBs.
So I just want to see the 2 sides come to an agreement, no matter how hard it may be, whatever compromises must be made. I don’t want to go through 2011 without the NFL. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about it.
But to answer the question, for any good to come out of a new collective bargaining agreement, lockout or not, there has to be a cap on rookie salaries.
When teams are unable to trade high draft picks due to the massive salary implications, there’s something seriously wrong with the status quo. When unproven 21 year old kids are signing contracts worth more than $50 million, there’s something seriously wrong with the status quo. WhenJamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf are financially set for life, despite their being monstrous busts, there’s something wrong with the status quo.
There’s nothing wrong with getting paid some serious jack as an NFL draft pick. There’s everything wrong in rookies being the high paid players on the roster, even though they’ve never played a down in the NFL.
I also want to see retired NFL players, the men who helped make the league the juggernaut it is today, made financially stable and taken care of medically. There’s too many horror stories of retired players, especially those who played before the day of million dollar contracts, having miserable lives due to disabling, long term injuries. They are left unable to work, or even worse, mentally unstable after taking years of physical abuse.
Tragic stories like Mike Webster’s (The Steelers All-Pro center who suffered brain damage and died at 50 years of age) should be a cautionary tale. The NFL makes BILLIONS yearly. There’s no good reason retired and disabled players don’t receive a bigger piece of the money pie.
Blades: Let me start by saying I’m really loving these questions coming in from the readers. You can tell they really care about football and it’s nice to see others who love it and the Lions as much as I do.
Now, to the question, what would I like to see in the new collective bargaining agreement? Well, there are a few things. Nothing major but I will list them in order below.
1. The salary cap needs to stay in place. The league really protected itself the last time there was a CBA because they knew if there was no salary cap it would ruin the league. Sure there’s no cap right now but the league put in all sorts of stipulations saying that if there was no new agreement, although there would be no cap, players wouldn’t be eligible for unrestricted free agency till a year later, franchise tags are still in place and there were a few other little things in place that would really piss off the players.
2. There needs to be a limit on rookie contracts. This is beyond huge. Matt Stafford came into the league last year and was making more money then Tom Brady and he never played a down in the NFL. That’s a complete joke. The big question is how to stop this. Although this a tough one to answer, I have an idea. Use the franchise tag idea!!!! As a rookie coming into the league, if you’re a top 5 pick, you make an average what the top 5 players at your position make a year. So if you’re a qb and you’re drafted third overall and say the average between the top 5 paid quarterbacks is $11 million a season, then that’s what you get. Then if you’re between 6-12, you make the average salary of the top 6-12 guys at that position and so on and so forth. Is this fair??? It can be argued either way but it MUCH better then what they have going on right now.
3. Concussion are a big deal right now and there has to be a “concussion fund” in the NFL. A recent report by researchers at the University of Florida said that once a person gets his 6th concussion, the risks increase by 60% that they will have some sort of long term problems. That’s fairly significant. As a result, I think there should be something in place saying that once a player has been diagnosed with five concussions, they have to retire. Once they retire they get a fixed amount of money from the Players Association to help them with the costs of living. This would be kind of like a buy out and the player would get a couple million maybe. Again, there are some issues with this but I think this is a great idea that should be looked at.
I could go on and on but I’ll think I’ll stop here. I’d love to hear what you the readers thoughts are and what you guys would like to see added. I’m really looking forward to reading what others in the Congregation think as well. Hope everyone enjoyed the short work week and we’ll see you next week!!!
DetFan1979: This one brings a lot of complex issues to the fore – especially in that there MUST be give and take between the owners and players to come up with a solution neither loves, but both can live with. I think a few of the concepts that need to be considered are what this argument is really about — why did the owners opt-out of the last CBA? The players were just fine with it, but the owners…not so much. why??
Profit Margin is going to be the key figure here. Remember, the Salary Cap last season dictated that players are due 60% of revenue, NOT profit. Revenue is all money generated by sales, agreements, merchandising, etc. This does not take into account other expenses a franchise has:
1. Staff: For just a taste of the massive number of individuals the Lions alone employ, take a look at just the main administrative listing at Lions.com. This doesn’t include secretaries, support staff, assistants, catering, services, janitorial, maintenance…the list goes on and on.
2. Advertising: Yes, some has to pay for those snazzy ad’s getting us to buy tickets (which cost money to print, people to sell them, etc.)
3. Materials: Food ain’t free though I wish I could sell things at the markup they do in Ford Field!
4. Players: 60% off the top please, thank you.
5. Debt service
6. Building and Facilities
7. See my point?
Without players the game can’t be played, and owners are not losing millions by any means. However, with increasing costs hitting them just like every business right now, many teams soon could find themselves cutting back. Indeed, the “Cap Free” season saw more teams dropping below the spending floor (the was both a maximum and minimum that had to be spent under the old CBA) than those going “over” the illusory cap by far. Teams dumped salaries and we saw more relevant trades than we have in a decade. We also saw less ifseason movement among young players with potential left as they were locked up at bargain basement rates via restricted free agency.
Both sides have a lot to lose, and a lot to gain. So King Midas and Mini-Midas start arguing over dollars — who cares! Figure it out — you’re all supposed to be grown adults — act like it instead of childish fighting back and forth in the media. Sit down right now, and figure it out. What else, exactly, are you being paid to do at this point gentlemen? Git R Done because I don’t want to fathom a 2011 without football.
What should be included, then, to make this livable for both sides?
1. Rookie Salary Slotting: Pre-Determine the base contract, incentive clauses, and bonus by position and pick. End of story. All rookies are signed in camp on time, and agents don’t get to indulge in a dog and pony show to make their egos bigger, not necessarily get a better contract than they were originally going to.
2. Initial contract length shorter (3 years, with team option on a 4th — or 4 with team option on a 5th) so that both the player and team can be protected. Busts (especially high picks) don’t cripple a franchise financially, and players get a chance for a big second contract sooner. Win-Win.
3. Reinstate a salary cap and floor. This will keep the top dollar in place, but also keep the bottom dollar in place. With rookie money already determined, this will force owners into making sure more money goes to the vets via contract extensions and free agent signings. All the vets should be for these first three positions, even if their agents aren’t.
4. Reduce amount of revenue going to current players, but also include a fund for retired players from current revenue as well. Not sure on the split, but say 52 for current players, 4 for retirees, and 44 for owners for example. (53-3-44, 53-2-45, or some other similar combo would do)
5. Speed up the appeal/suspension time-line for players caught using PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs). It is ridiculous that it takes about at year or more before players are actually suspended. If you were a vet trying to squeeze out one or maybe two more years, Ross Tucker on SI suggests that under the current system why wouldn’t you use them? The league also needs to make a clearer dietary supplement guideline/policy. That will also eliminate the outlandish “tainted supplement” defense. Better yet, make your own. You’ve got money and incentive. Why wouldn’t you fund that research into nutrition and supplemental nutrition NFL? I’m sure the results would benefit the league, and the fans in the new developments and understanding of the human physique.
6. Roster Limits: If there is a salary cap, why is there a roster limit? Doesn’t a maximum salary allowance by its’ very nature preclude you from keeping too many players? Lots of cheap guys, or not so many more expensive guys. While this is unrealistic, an expansion of rosters either the hard numbers, practice squad, or both would be welcome. With the prevalence of injuries, why not have 53 game day, 58 roster, and unlimited practice squad. (As Murtha demonstrated, anyone can sign a player off another squad so why not allow more players to learn and develop at the teams’ expense? Better for league and players — more vets keep jobs too!)
Not sure if I have any other thoughts on my wish-list, but I’m sure this will be addressed again in the coming years and I’ll have plenty to say (as usual!)
If you would like to see a topic, question, or thoughts from the Lions Congregation email us at firstname.lastname@example.org See you next week!!