Posted on: March 9, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 5:40 pm

Report: owners, NFLPA agree on rookie wage scale

S. Bradford (US Presswire)Posted by Andy Benoit

Well, at least some progress is being made in the labor negotiations. There is still the division of $9 billion to figure out. But in the meantime, the NFL and NFLPA has agreed that a much smaller chunk of that $9 billion than in past years will go to rookies.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports writes, “According to two sources familiar with the negotiations, the league and the union have reached a basic compromise on a rookie wage scale that will replace the current rookie salary cap. The owners backed off the idea of requiring first-round picks to sign five-year deals, instead limiting the contracts to four years before a player could become a free agent. The agreement is also expected to include a stipulation limiting the amount of guaranteed money and signing bonus offered to draft picks.”

The agreement also says that players drafted after the first round can become free agents after three years, though teams can be restricted tags (i.e. RFA tender) after three years. That’s essentially the same arrangement as before.

But the focus is on the first-rounders. Previously, players picked 1-16 could sign six-year deals; players picked 17-32 could sign for five years. But a shorter four-year deal allows good players to reach free agency faster. That’s key when you’re talking about limiting those players’ salaries.

NFL Labor

It is not yet known just how limited those salaries will be. Cole reports that the owners’ initial offer was for the top overall pick to receive a five-year deal worth $19 million, with $6 million guaranteed. That would be about a $44 million drop from what Sam Bradford received last year.

A rookie wage scale has significant impact on the value of draft picks. No longer will holding a top five pick be a curse. Don’t be surprised if teams that normally horde late-round picks (say, the Patriots, for example) suddenly discover a newfound interest for trading up in the draft.

As for what this means for the ongoing labor negotiations....it's progress, obviously. But it's expected progress. The concept of a rookie wage scale is one area where the NFL and NFLPA have been on the same general page all along.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:07 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 10:14 am

CBA talks from Tuesday: books not opened enough

Posted by Andy Benoit

Negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA on a new CBA may have hit a snag Tuesday. Or, better stated, they remained snagged. Judy Batista of the New York Times says that the union has rejeS. Fujita (US Presswire)cted the NFL’s offer to share more financial data.

This is nothing new. The NFLAP has been pining to see the owners’ financial books for two years. On Monday, owners indicated for the first time that they might be willing to share more financial information with union officials than what is required.

But that’s still not enough for the NFLPA. Batista writes, “One person involved in the negotiations called full financial disclosure a potential “silver bullet” in the negotiations.”

Reviewing the books is not necessarily common practice in labor negotiations. But since taking over, union leader DeMaurice Smith has argued that the uncommon circumstance of owners asking the players to take $1 billion less in revenue warrants such transparency.

NFLPA executive committee member Scott Fujita (Browns linebacker) said in a conference call that the data owners have offered up thus far has not been sufficient.

“It’s tough when you’ve got basically just a brief summary or a snapshot of all the information. That doesn’t satisfy what any competent business person would want to see.”

Both sides remained at the bargaining table on Tuesday and are expected to resume discussions Wednesday.

The negotiations Tuesday were said to center more around drug testing policy and offseason camps. Thus, the issue of dividing up that $9 billion in revenue remains, well, the most dividing issue.

NFL Labor

The NFLPA is dead serious about their demands to see the owners’ books. They’ve even gone so far as to hire an investment bank for a potential audit. That investment bank (which has not been specified) has gotten a glimpse of the past two years worth of financial statement summaries from owners but is said to need more information.

Make no mistake: splitting up the $9 billion in revenue is the key issue in these CBA talks. From the union’s perspective, financial transparency is the only avenue to those talks going further.


UPDATE Wednesday 10:15 a.m. EST: On his way into Wednesday’s negotiations, NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said to NFL Network reporter Albert Breer that the league has made more financial info available to the union than ever before, and more than is even available to the clubs.

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

Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 6:39 pm

NFLPA hires investment bank for potential audit

Posted by Will Brinson

Earlier Tuesday, we mentioned that the NFLPA is unlikely to continue dropping their percentage of shared revenue in CBA negotiations without seeing what the owners have under the proverbial hood.

Or, if you prefer, in the books.

So serious is the NFLPA about that request that, according to multiple reports, they've hired an international investment bank to help audit the owners' financial records.

"The players are serious about getting a deal done, and we need an accurate understanding of what the numbers actually mean," says executive committee member Scott Fujita, via Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated. "More importantly, if we don't get the full audited financial statements, we need to know what other information we need to make an informed decision. That's where this investment bank has been hired to help us out."

Again, we covered this earlier -- the NFLPA wouldn't be prudent to keep negotiating without actually understanding what they're negotiating against.

Additionally, Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that the NFLPA brought "an auditor who the union has used for years" to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building at about 3:00 PM EST.

What does this all mean? Well, Trotter reports that the NFL has opened up its books (some) and "released summary financial statements from the past two years." Unfortunately, that doesn't take into account what the NFL owners were making before they started getting the original $1 billion credit off the top.

NFL Labor

Clearly, knowing the disparity between the numbers before and after that credit are pretty important for the players in determining whether or not the additional $1 billion is a fair request or not.

So, what it seems like is this: the owners gave up some of their financials, and the NFLPA used their go-to auditor to look at those documents. But, that auditor, just like any other normal person, can't accurately enough discern what the difference is pre- and post-credit without seeing more information.

The NFLPA has presumably hired a big-time firm to look over that additional information, but also made it clear -- by publicly announcing the hire -- just how important looking at those financial documents actually is; which is to say, very.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:46 am

Feely: Doty ruling 'gave us a chance'

Posted by Mike Freeman

One of the smartest guys in this entire labor battle between the NFL and players is Arizona kicker Jay Feely. Few people on either side are capable of succinctly breaking down the issues with clarity as Feely.

He's a member of the union's executive committee and while there is little Feely can say about the negotiations now because of the sensitivity of the talks he did take time to explain in detail why the recent Judge David Doty ruling regarding the league's network TV deals -- which amounted to a $4 billion lockout slush fund for the owners -- was so critical.

Feely had just arrived in Washington on Tuesday morning when he spoke with CBSSports.com.

"With that lockout fund the owners basically had $4 billion in the bank and we had zero," said Feely. "They had such a massive financial advantage over us. The Doty ruling gave us a chance.

NFL Labor

"I've told people that basically it was like the real estate market. One person trying to buy a house has a lot of cash on hand and someone else doesn't. The other part of the ruling was the language Doty used. He stated the actions of the owners was egregious and an attempt to defraud the players.

"I think the next big thing is what the penalty will be. Doty hasn't decided yet."

That is critical and hasn't been talked about enough in the media. Doty could put that $4 billion pool in an escrow account for an entire year, give the players 59.6 percent of it or hold it until a deal is done. None of those options are good for certain owners like Danny Snyder who have gigantic stadium mortgage payments.

"I get what the NFL was trying to do from a business perspective," Feely said. "But it was still wrong and Doty's ruling showed it was wrong. Now we just want to get a deal done. Hopefully that can happen."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 7:41 pm

'Not $1 more' from NFLPA without books opened?

Posted by Will Brinson

One of the biggest complaints throughout the labor disagreement between the NFL and NFLPA is that the owners won't "open their books" for the players. In case that term isn't clear, the players want to scrutinize the financial records of the owners to see if the owners are making as much (or as "little," if you will) money as they claim they are.

This opening of the books may turn into a dealbreaker. In fact, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal reports that it might become a dealbreaker beginning almost immediately.

According to one of Mullen's sources, the union has decided that they will give "not 1 dollar more [without] financial transparency."

This is in reference to the fact that there's been movement on the issue of revenue sharing between the two sides -- once $1 billion apart, they were reportedly just $750-800 million apart by the time mediation ended on Monday night.

NFL Labor

"The players really think that the NFL opening their financials has become the key to getting a deal done," Mullen's source told her early Tuesday.

The players are probably correct. As of right now, the owners keep claiming "We're making only $XX,XXX,XXX.XX." This is a problematic claim, however, because they refuse to provide any evidence to prove that this claim is true.

Given what the NFLPA was able to uncover in the most recent momentum victory -- Judge Doty's ruling on the NFL's television "war chest" contracts -- it's difficult to blame them for completely and inherently trusting that whatever the owners tell them is 100 percent true.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:08 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 10:10 am

Chiefs' owner Lamar Hunt at Tuesday mediation

Posted by Will Brinson

Monday's mediation between the NFL and NFLPA took an optimistic turn -- despite the two sides only actually working for about five hours -- because of John Mara joining the ownership group at the bargaining table.

Tuesday's mediation, the 13th day of such talks, saw a similar spike of hope, as Chiefs owner Clark Hunt pulled up a chair to the league's side, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.

This is good news for a number of reasons. First of all, Hunt's family isn't exactly known for being stubborn in NFL-related negotiations (his late father, Lamar Hunt, did a few important things with the NFL, like merging it and whatnot) and every reasonable observer considers Hunt's presence a good thing in terms of seeking a compromise.

Additionally, Hunt is the owner of two Major League Soccer teams. That seems irrelevant until you remember, via Peter King's Monday column, that the mediator in these negotiations recently handled the MLS labor talks.

NFL Labor

Ergo, it seems safe to assume that at some point, George Cohen has dealt with Hunt on the league/ownership side of a professional sports labor negotiation (Hunt was actually an MLS founding investor as well as an owner, as was his his father).

That's not to pain Hunt as Superman or anything. Because he's not.

But Hunt joining the mediation talks on Tuesday means that the NFL ownership group is exploring all its options, and, hopefully, trying to make progress before the CBA set to expire on Friday night/Saturday morning.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 12:51 am

NFL, NFLPA adjourn early from mediation Monday

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA, as of 12:01 AM Tuesday, have one less day to solve the NFL's labor situation.

Fortunately, both sides are still heavily embroiled in negotiations, fighting through the night to make sure that the fans get ... WAIT, WHAT? They went WHERE? To dinner? And they never came back?!?!

Alright, I knew they left already. But they really did go to dinner and never come back, after only mediating for five hours.

Which is totally fine, if the entire fate of the NFL weren't hanging in the balance of this coming week (and, possibly, any time that's added onto the current CBA extension).

There is some good news, though -- our own Mike Freeman reports that there's no additional "acrimony" during the talks, and there are reports circulating that the two sides have narrowed the revenue gap from $1 billion to $750 million (or thereabouts).

It's also possible that the two sides will be meeting later in the evening if called by the mediator, but at this point in time (nearly 1:00 AM EST) that seems pretty unlikely. Plus, everyone probably had a long day traveling and they should all really rest up for the coming days of heavy mediation.

Actually, mediation will resume at 9:00 AM EST on Tuesday, and hopefully some headway will be made early in the morning when everyone's well rested.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 7, 2011 10:38 am

Matt Birk responds to Obama's remarks

Posted by Andy Benoit

President Obama has essentially indicated that he will not be choosing sides in the NFL’s labor negotiations. Asked about it last week, he said, “You’ve got owners, most of whom are worth close to a billion dollars. You’ve got players who are making millions of dollars. People are having to cut back, compromise and worry about making mortgage [payments]. . . . The two parties should be able to work it out without the President of the United States intervening. . . . [F]or an industry that’s making $9 billion a year in revenue, they can figure out how to divide it up in a sensible way.”

Matt Birk, the Ravens’ Harvard-educated center, took a little exception to the President’s words. “He talked about the NFL being $9 billion, which is correct, but he kind of said it a little bit sarcastic,” Birk said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I mean, the U.S. government brings in a couple trillion [dollars], don’t you think they’d know how to balance the budget? . . . .

“And ‘millionaire players’ isn’t really correct.  Most NFL players are not millionaires.  They don’t make millions of dollars.  But that’s OK.  You know what, that kind of right there is the general feeling. . . .  Billionaires and millionaires and nobody really cares about their problems. ‘Work it out.’”

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