The NFL, NFLPA, and an 18 game season.

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“We’re ready for round 5 in the Goodall vs. Smith fight.”

While almost every NFL analysts was projecting a massive spending spree by the league in an uncapped year, nearly 2 years ago I told you that the NFLPA would be crying for the reinstatement of the salary cap floor because teams would use the uncapped year to dump expensive players and save money. That is exactly what happened.

More than a year ago on this site, I proposed a solution to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that involved the 18 game season. The proposal was that the current players would get paid 18/16ths of their current contracts which would increase their gross by 12.5%. It should allow the NFLPA and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith to give back 8% of the player’s cut of the total income from around 60% down to around 52%. If that proposal included an increase in the rosters from 53 to 60 and a rookie salary cap (to cut the amount of the pie that went to newbies and increase the pool available for the Vets) with the reinstatement of the NFL Salary cap, I believed that the NFLPA would accept it in order to prevent a strike/lockout. There were still going to be a few other issues but those were inconsequential next to the money.

Three things were true then that are not true now. First, the NFL looked like it was going to win the American Needle vs. NFL law suit that involved the league’s anti-trust status. That would have strengthened the league’s position and in the opinion of some might have allowed it to impose an agreement that the union would have almost been forced to accept.

Second, at the time I wrote that, it also looked like the NFL and the drug enforcement program would prevail in the Williams’ vs. NFL in Minnesota state court. Instead the court has failed to give the league a win and has stopped the league from enforcing the suspension of the Vikes’ DTs.

Third and most important, the proposal was not submitted quietly so that the union could digest it as part of the overall proposal. The stick only works if there is a carrot at the end of it. Recently, the NFL came to the same conclusion about the 18 game season and are expected to approve it at the next league meeting.

That is a really stupid move.

What the league had done is take the one carrot they had and stuff it down the disposal rather than adding it to a balanced dinner salad of a solution to the labor issue. The owners got greedy and gave the key to an agreement away and now they have nothing with which to bargain.

This almost guarantees that there will be a work stoppage because the league will have very little to offer the union that could encourage them to give back some of the money they got in the last agreement.

I wish I had better news but I try to give you the best forecast I can of what will happen.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

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 He has also published several novels on

and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFLPA,DeMaurice Smith,Goodell,Collective Bargainning Agreement,CBA,Lockout,salary cap,rookie salary cap,18 game season

Pressure grows on NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith

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The hard line former candidates for the post of NFLPA Executive Director that were defeated by DeMaurice Smith in vote of the Executive Committee last year are clambering again. Former NFLPA President Troy Vincent was one candidate that is reportedly active again in the annual meeting of the union this year. Rumors are that Vincent’s immediate target is current NFLPA President Kevin Mawae. Originally, Mawae was not expected to have any opposition for reelection. Now he will from the hard line group. Mawae is known to be less hard line than his likely opponents. The President must be an active NFL player. If Vincent can get Mawae replaced by a hard line guy, that will put more pressure on Smith to take a more aggressive stance against the owners. It will also put another hard liner on the negotiating team.

There are 4 players that are stepping down 10-man Executive Committee. Those players are Keenan McCardell, Donovin Darius, Mark Bruener, and Kevin Carter. If those 4 are replaced by hard liners, Smith’s position could be in jeopardy. A change at the top of the union’s negotiating team would insure a 2011 lockout.

What restarted the attempted coup is an unanswered question. However, it is clear that one key issue is the change in Smith’s position on a salary cap. Originally he said that he would never present an agreement to the rank and file of the union that included a salary cap. However, now he says he is willing to accept one. Actually, he will insist that a salary floor be included in any CBA. We have all seen the owners keep their hands in their pockets during this free agency period. Smith realized early on that the only way to insure an agreed to percentage of total compensation is to have a salary floor below which a team can not go.

There are other issues at play as well. One of those is the distribution of TV and other “common” income between the teams. The HL faction demands that all teams get an even split. In addition, they want the low income teams to get extra financial help to insure that no team’s salary totals fall below what they think is a reasonable minimum.

What will happen if the hard liners get control of the union?

One thing that has not been mentioned anywhere that I believe will happen is a challenge to the TV contracts that allow the league to be paid even if there is a lockout. The union will likely ask the National Labor Relations Board to strike down the part of the TV contracts that provide payments during a lockout claiming that money represents an unfair pressure against the union in labor negotiations. Given the pro-union stance of the President and his administration, that request to the NLRB will likely succeed. The NFL would take any such action by the NLBR to court. I believe the courts would be the final arbitrator of the issue but that process would take months and the outcome would be uncertain. The court would certainly grant a temporary restraining order to stop networks from making payments to the teams until the case could be heard. That would change the dynamics of the negotiations. The length of the process and the anger on both sides it would generate would further reduce the chances of a settlement in time to avoid a lockout.

The greatest area of focus for the HLs will be the overall percentage of total revenue that the players will get. The owners backed out of the current CBA due mostly to the 58% of total revenues less League-wide Projected Benefits that were granted to the players by the contract. According to some, the owners asked for a 14-18% reduction in the players cut depending on how the percentage is calculated. The union refused. HLs want to keep that percentage within a couple of percent of the expiring deal.

The union HLs want guaranteed contracts for all players. The owners would be stupid to agree to this. However, if they are not getting paid by the networks the owners might be pressured into accepting this. The concept of guaranteed contracts would devastate the league the way it has injured both the NBA and MLB.

What could be worse is that they may demand that all current contracts are guaranteed. Many existing contracts are back loaded to bring up the total dollars for PR purposes. Many older players get back loaded contracts as a matter of respect even when both sides know that those dollars will not be paid. The player will either retire or be cut to prevent getting the back load dollars.

The HL faction also want the union to sue the owners over collusion for failing to spend like the Congress on free agents. That will be a given if the HLs win but might happen regardless of the outcome of the coup.

The hard liners want a floor but no top salary cap to spending by a team. The teams will not be likely to allow that.

The bottom line:

If the hard liners win control of the negotiating committee the odds for a lockout go from around 50% now to around 90%.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Your fantasy football doesn’t have to be over. Run a pro football franchise all year long for free at . Tell them Coach Smith sent you.

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 He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio Monday afternoons at 1 Eastern. He has also published several novels on

and edits .

Technorati Tags: DeMaurice Smith,NFL,NFLPA,CBA,Collective Barganing Agreement,Mawae,Court case,lockout,strike,negotiations

Smith's election as Executive Director of the NFLPA is great news for NFL fans.

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Fryingpan Sports

Smith’s election as Executive Director of the NFLPA is great news for NFL fans.

By Bill Smith

The NFL Players Association announced that attorney DeMorris Smith had been elected Executive Director unanimously by the team Player Reps. This is very good news for all NFL fans. It seems that the Reps have selected a moderate in Smith over the extreme positions of the other leading candidates.

Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong were the best known candidates to fill the very large shoes of Gene Upshaw. Both of them were campaigning on a platform of a very hard line position against the NFL. Both had reportedly promised the players that they were the candidate that could finally bring guaranteed contracts to the NFL players. That would create a long and ugly strike/lockout that could cost the NFL several seasons. If the owners folded first, it would have created a league that would make Major League Baseball look organized.

While Smith’s positions on league issues are widely unknown, he has not made any overt public statements about what concessions he would demand from the league.

The NFLPA website says the following about Smith:

Smith, 45, is a trial lawyer and litigation partner at D.C. law firm Patton Boggs. He has defended individuals in high profile criminal cases and Congressional investigations while also representing Fortune 500 companies in criminal and complex civil cases, compliance matters, and internal investigations. A former assistant U.S. attorney, Smith previously served as counsel to then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Smith graduated from Cedarville University and received his law degree from the University of Virginia. Smith, who is married with two children, will begin his term with the NFLPA immediately and will work out of the Association’s Washington D.C. office.

In his first act as ED, Smith asked former head coach of the Colts Tony Dungy to be a buffer between the union and the league. Dungy has said he is interested in the position.

My analysis: In his first day on the job, Smith has given the fans two very positive signals. First, the selection of Dungy to help broker a deal. Dungy has the respect of players and owners and has the kind of quiet demeanor that is conducive to getting things done—even things as difficult as negotiations between the NFLPA and the owners.

The second and equally important sign was in his first official statement as ED. He said that he wanted to begin negotiations with the league as soon as possible. An agreement before the end of the 2009 season would reduce the uncertainty that now exists in 2010 and beyond.

The fact that the players did not elect either Vincent or Armstrong is a very good sign that at least a number of the players have a serious interest in getting an agreement. If the union is at all reasonable, a deal will get done. The owners have way too much at stake to not be reasonable.

The fans deserve the very best and fairest deal between these parties. The game is too important to too many people not to get a deal done. A strike will only depress the millions of people that love NFL football. And with the current economic downturn, we are depressed enough.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

Technorati Tags: nfl,pro football,nflpa,contract,strike,lockout,Smith,Vincent,Upshaw,labor union Dungy,Colts,Armstrong

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