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Tag:NFL
Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:37 am
Edited on: July 6, 2011 12:00 pm
 

7 questions to ask for the labor home stretch

Posted by Will Brinson

Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- is ready for the NFL to start back up. (Otherwise, we might end up with Brett Favre putting his name back in the active player pool. And that's no good for anyone.)

And while it might be a simple process for the NFL and NFLPA to suck it up, find some common ground and make a deal happen ASAP, there's still a whole pile of issues to handle before we get the season ready to roll.

So, as we head into the hypothetical home stretch of the labor strife that's plagued NFL fans all summer, let's hit up our trusty seven-question format to figure out what it is we need to know in the next 10 days.

1. I just woke up from the Fourth of July ... are these guys close to a deal at all?
Surprisingly, yes, it sure does seem like the NFL and NFLPA are getting somewhere when it comes to negotiating.

At some point, both sides must have seen the balance sheets for what they stand to lose -- $800 million in revenue just from the preseason, not counting salaries! -- by continuing to be stubborn and decided that playing football was in everyone's interests.

Also, it's important to remember that DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell didn't exactly know each other well before this whole labor strife went down, and they've been, for all intents and purposes, feeling each other out as things went along.

It's infinitely easier to negotiate with someone you've negotiated with a bunch of times in the past, and trying to strike a deal with someone in a supercharged environment doesn't make things any easier.

Plus, if there's not a deadline for making a deal, you don't see people budge off their stances in negotiations. That's not something that's new to the NFL labor talks.
NFL Labor

2. What are the sticking points now?
The same as they've always been. Revenue sharing tops the list, but it's believed the sides are closer than they've ever been on that issue.

The 18-game schedule's been tabled for the time being.

The owners "agreed" on revenue sharing.

Everyone wants something to happen where Al Davis isn't capable of giving JaMarcus Russell $60 million guaranteed ever again. (Or, at least right out of the draft.)

And everyone agrees that the retired players need better benefits. Although, those guys did just sue everyone, and no one's entirely sure how to get them paid, so that could be a problem. But still, it's something that can be sorted out in a quick fashion when people want to make a deal happen.

Just like the rest of the issues.

3. Is there an actual deadline for the NFL and NFLPA to reach an agreement?

Not technically, no, although July 15th has long been considered the "soft deadline" for making something happen. But a deal could be struck any time between Wednesday, July 6, and September 1 and we could still get a full season football.

The problem is that all teams -- even ones like the Packers -- need some kind of training camp and preparation for the season. That might mean that preseason games become more meaningful, but that's not all bad.

Once we move past July 15, there's no longer a convenient window for both free agency and training camps leading up to a full preseason, and things start to get a little hairer.

One of the more interesting aspects to watch about this soft deadline is whether or not an actual deal has to be in place. The rumors coming from the league are that the lockout can't be lifted until all the legal papers are signed/sealed/delivered, but if there's a firm "handshake agreement" in place by next Friday, it would be pretty surprising to see the two sides haggle over some signatures.

4. Are the lawyers really trying to screw the talks up?
You know what my dad always likes to point out to me? That the difference between a dead lawyer in the road and a dead squirrel in the road are the tire marks in front of the squirrel.

And my dad's a lawyer.

Jeff Kessler and Jim Quinn have $10-plus billion reasons to consider trying to keep the two sides in court for the duration of the season. (A favorable verdict for the players would generate a big, old trough full of money, of which they'd get to amply slurp at.)

Which is why it's good news that the team of attorneys for the players are supposedly reworking their contract (and/or that De Smith listened to my man Mike Freeman's advice) -- if Quinn and Kessler are off of the contingency-fee deal, there's much less motivation for them to stay in court for a lengthy amount of time.

5. Wait, what about that whole "the players sued the owners and everyone's fighting in court" thing?
The rulings at the District Court in Minnesota and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals are the gigantic elephant and gorilla, respectively, that you see in the back of the metaphorical room.

As of now, both the television ruling from Judge David Doty at the District Court level (leveraging how much in damages the players are owed) and the ruling on the permanency of the lockout (leveraging how long the owners can keep the players away from work) are in a holding pattern.

This is because the two sides have continually made progress on a deal that could get done without the court having to rule either way on either issue.

If the two courts do rule, though, things are going to get ugly, because suddenly all the angry feelings the two sides have temporarily put aside are going to start rearing up again.

6. Enough lawyer stuff -- when does my team get to sign free agents?
This is probably the trickiest question of all, because it's going to depend on the lockout being lifted first, natch.

But let's say that a deal does happen by July 15 and the lockout's lifted -- then we're probably facing a 48-hour (or thereabouts) window with which teams have to wait to sign free agents.

It's possible, based on some reports, that teams -- like the Carolina Panthers -- with a lot of restricted free agents (RFAs) will help muscle some sort of right of first refusal deal into the new CBA.

That scenario would give teams like the Panthers a chance to ink their big-name players -- in this case DeAngelo Williams and Charles Johnson -- that they didn't expect to become free agents.

But it's highly unlikely that the players cave on that issue, if only because the owners choose to opt out of the CBA themselves, thereby setting up a scenario in which the market became flooded with an unexpected amount of high-quality players.

7. So what are the chances a deal actually happens by July 15?
I'm going with the same answer I gave three months ago (before the lockout!): 75 percent. That doesn't make me a soothsayer, and it might actually make me wrong for the time being, but there really is too much to lose for both sides not to make something happen.

Don't get me wrong -- there is PLENTY that can cause these talks to explode and send both sides scurrying away from the negotiating table, back into the court room and as far away from the football field as you can get.

We could lose the preseason. And we could still lose the regular season.

But right now, both the owners and the players know there's a 10-day-ish window in which they can hammer out a deal, get the season started on time, make all the money they would have made anyway, and get right back in the good graces of football fans everywhere.

And the difference between now and the beginning of March isn't just a calendar date -- this time around, both sides appear ready to work with each other to make a deal happen and get football back on track.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.


Posted on: July 5, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 7:06 pm
 

NFLPA lawyers renegotiating to a 'flat fee'?

Posted by Will Brinson

Much of the CBA chatter over the holiday weekend focused on the fact that Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn were potentially submarining positive momentum in the current CBA negotiations.

It's precisely why Mike Freeman advised DeMaurice Smith needed to "send your lawyers packing," and it's particularly interesting given that Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated is hearing that the NFLPA lawyers are renegotiating their fee contract with the players.

"I'm hearing the NFLPA has renegotiated its contracts with outside counsel," Trotter tweeted on Tuesday. "Hearing the term 'flat fee' is included in the deal." The presumption here, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, is that the lawyers were being paid on a contingency fee. (There are generally three types of lawyer fees: either hourly/billable, contingency which is based on the outcome, or a flat fee, which is paid regardless of what happens.)

What makes this interesting is that if Quinn and Kessler were contracted on contingency for their work in the Brady v. NFL matter, they were probably eyeing an absolutely monumental payday if the players won the case.

The quick math, based on a range of 25-to-33 percent, tells us that had they won the deal, the floor for their attorney fees could have been something along the lines of $3 billion.

Most importantly, though, is what a potential renegotiation means for the future of football: If the NFLPA is reworking the manner in which the attorneys are paid, it sure does seem as if the players are envisioning a scenario in which their lawsuit won't be necessary for too much longer.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 2, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2011 8:13 pm
 

Jerry Jones: Revenue sharing is 'on it's way out'

Posted by Will Brinson

The matter of sharing revenue is a big deal for the NFL and NFLPA. In fact, most people would probably agree it's the biggest deal with respect to the current labor negotiations.

However, the issue of revenue sharing between owners is also a tremendous obstacle that the owners have to overcome before finding common ground with the players.

And if you think it's not a problem, then you haven't heard Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talk about how the rest of the owners are helping to pay for the Vikings new stadium.

"Right now, we are subsidizing this market," Jones said, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "It's unthinkable to think that you've got the market you got here - 3.5 million people - and have teams like Kansas City and Green Bay subsidizing the market. That will stop.

"That's going to stop. That's on its way out."

As Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal noted on Twitter, there's a reason why this subject has not been written about much despite being an important matter: the owners aren't going to budge off their stance.

Well, at least the rich(er) ones anyway: Jones and the rest of the owners with extraordinary deep pockets were talked into revenue sharing for the first time in the last CBA deal.

And such distribution of money, along with the revenue split given to the players, was precisely why they opted out of the deal that they agreed to back in 2006. (Ironically, Mike Brown of the Bengals and Ralph Wilson of the Bills were the only two owners to oppose the deal.)

It's also one of the unstated obstacles to a new CBA; you might hear talk from ownership of player factions during this process, but the notion that the owners are completely unified is just silly.

There are owners who want more money from other owners, and there are owners who don't want go hand out additional money simply because they're more committed to generating revenue by investing in their product.

From a negotiating standpoint, this is problematic, because the various factions of owners have differing viewpoints on splitting up the $2 billion pie of revenue.

But it's something that'll have to be bridged before the NFL and NFLPA can reach a deal; and Jones' hardline stance could be an indication that everyone's on the same page.

Or an ominous forewarning that there's some clear-cut dissonance amongst owners on the topic.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 10:31 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 10:43 pm
 

Break from CBA talks needs to become a gut check

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA are taking the holiday weekend off from negotiating a new CBA. Some folks might see this as a problem, because it means a break from negotiations and continued progress.

However, there's reason to think that this weekend could be a gamechanger, provided that both sides remember exactly what "negotiating" means.

As CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman reported over the past few days, the owners are presenting scenarios that don't fit in line with what they'd previously offered, and the NFLPA lawyers are refusing to budge on the issue of retired-player benefits. That, folks, is not negotiating, unless the word suddenly became a synonym for "being stubborn."

This weekend shouldn't be a time to sit around and gripe about who said what in which room, and whether this or that proposal was insulting. This is a weekend to realize that America is sitting around enjoying the summer, not really complaining about the lack of football, and patiently waiting for the two sides to strike a deal.

Latest on Labor

This weekend needs to be the two sides talking apart from one another and understanding that now is a time for a negotiation gut check.

The NFL needs to understand that it HAS to give in on certain areas, and the NFLPA needs to understand that it HAS to find some leeway on others.

That might sound silly and obvious, but it's -- plainly -- exactly what comprises negotiating.

We've constantly heard leaders from both sides preach about dialogue and the need for bargaining during this process. And we've constantly been told that there's ample reason for optimism despite the fact that there's not any football on the horizon.

But there's no concrete proof of any actual negotiating; there's no guarantee that either one of the sides can willingly find some room for concessions that will forward the progress of the best sport in the country.

And that's why a break is critical -- everyone involved in the negotiations of a new CBA for the NFL needs to take this time off to realize just how close we are to the beginning of the football season, to assess the goals of these negotiations, to figure out what the respective breaking points of each side on each issue are, and to find a way to hammer out a deal when negotiations resume on Tuesday.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.


Posted on: June 29, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 9:36 am
 

Plax's NFLPA symposium talk impactful on rookies

Posted by Will Brinson

We mentioned earlier in the week that Plaxico Burress was going to speak at the NFLPA rookie symposium. Burress was there -- along with many other impressive guests like Roger Goodell -- to give life advice to the NFL's youngsters.

He did just that, and according to Broncos' rookie Von Miller, speaking to Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, and the advice proved profound.

"I've been a big fan of Plaxico Burress' since I was a kid," Miller said. "It's a nightmare story, but I think all of us rookies can learn from that."

Burress' nightmare story is impactful: The wideout lost more than $12 million and two years of his life after being sentenced to prison for shooting himself in the leg in a nightclub.

Also present was former Lions DT Luther Ellis, who eventually filed for bankruptcy despite making $12 million over his career.

Latest on Labor
And, of course, a slew of rookies -- 150 rooks made the trip, including eight of 10 first-rounders. (Only absent were Jake Locker, who's getting married, and Julio Jones, who didn't have an excuse, though he didn't need one.)

"Going into this event I thought I knew a lot, and then you go through these couple of days and you realize there's a lot you have to learn," said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. "If I hadn't have had this event, I think I would have missed out on a great deal."

Fortunately, though the usually-sponsored-by-the-NFL event took place under the (optimistically!) dark cloud of the labor talks, it appears to have had an effect on the NFL's youngest group of players.

And that's always good news, regardless of whether the games are technically scheduled to begin on time right now.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: June 29, 2011 9:27 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 11:54 pm
 

Report: Smith tells players optimism is 'way off'

Posted by Will Brinson

There's been more than ample reason to wax optimistically about the NFL's labor situation over the past few weeks, with Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith playing friendly for the NFLPA's Rookie Symposium the chief reason.

But Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported on Wednesday night that such optimism is misguided, and that Smith called a large group of players to throw cold water on any hopes they had for a CBA deal this week.

Glazer reports that "50 Pro Bowlers were given call-in information but the number who participated is unknown," although he does point out that player reps Ray Lewis of the Ravens and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars were on the line.

"How optimistic are you that a deal will get done soon?" Lewis asked, according to Glazer.

Smith then told Lewis, according to Glazer, that "there is reason for hope."

However, Smith reportedly told Jones-Drew and others that there are serious gaps to bridge, specifically the sharing of revenue with retired players and the number of years needed to become a free agent.

"At one point, we were asked if we could sell six years of free agency to our locker rooms and we all said there’s no way," one player on the call told Glazer. "We heard about that and the [issue of] retired players — and that is even before we start talking about splitting the revenue."
Latest on Labor

Another player told Glazer that now he feels "a little more informed" than he'd felt from simply watching "the news for updates."

It's a bit disturbing to hear the disconnect from reports of what's being done publicly compared to what Glazer heard from these players.

But it's also important to remember that just because Smith told the players a deal isn't done doesn't mean a deal can't be done. In fact, the theory that something could be wrapped up by this weekend is nice, but probably too optimistic.

No one ever thought figuring out the revenue split, the rookie wage scale, the free agency issue and retired-player benefits would be easy. And it won't be.

But with enough time to get a deal done and still have a "normal season" -- more than two weeks, if you want to play the "soft deadline" game and target July 15 -- and with Goodell and Smith spending plenty of "quality time" together, it's perfectly acceptable to maintain the "cautiously optimistic" status quo for now.

Just remember the cautious part.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: June 28, 2011 12:14 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 12:56 pm
 

Plaxico will speak to rookies at NFLPA Symposium

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFLPA's Rookie Symposium begins this week in Florida, and CBSSports.com has learned that Plaxico Burress will be one of the players speaking to the rookies about life in the NFL.

Obviously, Burress, who was released from prison June 6, has a unique perspective on life as an NFL player and the traps of fame that can ensnare young players in the league.

He's also an excellent example of what our own Mike Freeman referred to as a blown opportunity for rookies: By passing on the Symposium, for whatever reason, they're also passing on valuable advice that could prove life-changing down the road.

Burress went from the highest of highs -- catching a touchdown in the Super Bowl for the Giants -- to the lowest of lows -- shooting himself in the leg in a nightclub and spending more than a year in prison on a weapons charge -- pretty quickly.

So getting Burress to speak at the Symposium is a savvy move by the NFLPA and a dagger for any rookie who skips the event thinking valuable advice won't be passed out.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: June 27, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 3:38 pm
 

Report: Players met with attorneys in Minnesota

Posted by Will Brinson

Peripheral labor developments, including a report that the NFL is already negotiating a new, as-yet-not-created television package, over the past weeks have been quite positive.

So it's a bit odd to hear that various NFL players "met Monday with their attorneys in Minneapolis."

Per the Associated Press a "person familiar with the situation says the players' side met on its own, without owners."

Any sense of a problem with this particular meeting is directly tied to the term "lawyers," which, for NFL fans, has mostly meant bad news throughout the course of the offseason.

But in this case, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which this is too terrifying, if only because meeting with attorneys before handling any negotiations is usually a pretty wise thing to do.

Additionally, it's hard to fathom that any sort of regression occurred over the weekend to force the players back into the huddle with their attorneys.

Although we won't know the real reason for the meetings until negotiations featuring Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith commence again this week. Hopefully, it's also shown as a positive development.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com