Smith is in the middle of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. According to several sources, the bargaining will continue during the Combine. Here is the problem for Smith. On one side he has to get a deal done that will prevent the loss of paychecks for the players because they are not nearly as financially secure as the owners. But also he has to play politics. He was elected by the executive board almost a year ago as a moderate candidate while the others running were taking a much harder stand against the league. But recent statements from Smith have been much harder in tone than when he was first elected. At the same time his positions on several issues have changed.
Prior to the election, he mentioned that he would be opposed to the reinstatement of a salary cap if 2010 was an uncapped year. There is almost no chance that the two sides will come to agreement prior to Mar. 5. Therefore, 2010 will be uncapped. However, we have seen a number of teams cut expensive older players. We are going to see a lot more of that after the 5th when all cap ramifications disappear. Now Smith realizes that most teams are not going to spend like the US Congress on free agents. He has recently suggested that the union is “open” to discussing a new cap. The advantage to the players is that the cap includes a minimum amount each team has to spend. In 09 that amount was 98 million. Without a cap there is no minimum. Those teams that were losing spending 98 million can lose spending 50 mill and put the difference in their pocket.
Another issue he is hedging on is a rookie salary cap. Just after his election, he indicated that he would expect the league to give up something to get a rookie salary cap. However, somebody told him that the rookies are not union members until they sign an agreement. Since the CBA will set a percentage of the total revenue that will go to players, the division of dollars between the rookies and vets becomes a zero-sum game. The vets will have to be paid what the rookies don’t get.
The biggest single problem for Smith is that the union’s strike fund must support around 1900 players plus the union employees. The owners will be paid their regular TV revenue even if the games in 2011 are not played. That TV money only needs to pay 32 teams and their employees. The union has a lot more mouths to feed with a lot fewer dollars. As a result, the pressure in on Smith to get a deal.
The one thing that he has been very consistent about is any new agreement must include guaranteed contracts. Guaranteed contracts would be a real problem for the league as it has for the NBA and MLB. In those leagues players are paid even after they can no longer compete and are sitting at home watching the games on TV. The question will be can the union hold out long enough to get the owners to accept guaranteed contacts. My feeling now is they will not.
The latest word from Smith was that the league was asking for an 18% reduction in the players percentage. That would take it from 59 to 41 percent. That will never happen. However, the TV revenue continuing puts the union at a serious disadvantage.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday mornings at 11 EST. He has also published several novels on
and edits .