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

Analysis: The UFL stakes everything on an NFL lockout.

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It was no accident that the UFL formed after the NFL owners officially pulled out of the existing collective bargaining agreement. The UFL owners saw an opening and wanted to take advantage of it. That is why they had to begin playing in 09. It is also why they cut back from a projected 8 teams to just 4 but will stage games in 7 cities. They want to be around in 2010 and 2011 just in case there is a strike.

Right now, things don’t look all that good for the fans of the NFL. There are several indicators pointing toward a strike/lockout. First, the NFLPA has a new Executive Director. DeMaurice Smith is new. He beat out a couple of former players that publicly took hard line stances against the NFL but he is going to have to prove that he is tough enough to keep the job. The NFLPA members have heard from other candidates that the new agreement will eliminate the salary cap, increase the percentage of total revenue that the players get and increase benefits. All this in the face of the toughest economy since the depression.

When Smith took his office, he said that he would begin discussions with the league soon. There have been reports of some meetings but there are no indications of any serious discussions. The only meeting made public was described as an informal meet and greet.

Meanwhile, the NFL owners are intent on reducing the total take of the players and insist that the salary cap is non-negotiable. That is the stuff of a long and painful strike.

The UFL is starting out signing a few former NFL players that are known and plans to fill the rest of the teams with young players with potential. The official league tag line is “Where young stars come to play.” The league has signed experienced and well known NFL coaches including Dennis Green, Jim Haselet, Jim Fassel and Ted Cottrell to give the league some legitimacy. They will play on Thursday and Friday to avoid the NFL and major college football games. They are going to pay a lot less to their players. That should help them survive for a year or two.

The league has changed some of the less fan friendly rules from the NFL including allowing each team to get the ball once in overtime and eliminating the tuck rule. The greatest fan friendly rule will eliminate the NFL ban on touchdown end zone celebrations. The league has even announced that it will welcome players that have been suspended from the NFL including Mike Vick.

There is a better than even chance that the UFL will play some interesting and watchable football. The teams should be evenly matched. There are always good athletes that are not quite ready for the NFL that can profit from a developmental league. And you can bet the UFL will try to play wide open football.

The previous attempts to establish a rival football league have failed. But the previous attempts including the USFL and the XFL never had the stage all to themselves. If the NFL goes on strike even for a few games, the UFL will get a foothold. Whether or not they can survive long enough to take advantage of a work stoppage is a question. But the bigger question is whether the UFL can survive after the strike. The answer to that will only be known when the time comes.

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,STRIKE,UFL,NFLPA,COLLEGE FOOTBALL,VICK,suspension,Smith,salary cap,revenue

ANALYSIS: What do you do with a young benched starting QB?

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As things have worked out so far, the 2006 draft was not exactly the fountain of NFL quarterbacking excellence it was thought to be. That isn’t unusual. It is virtually impossible to judge a draft until 3 years have passed. Jay Cutler was taken by the Broncos and has done well enough to start. But even he was considered trade bait by new HC Josh McDaniels. So let’s take a look at 4 QB’s drafted in 06 that were supposed to be the future of the teams that picked them.

Vince Young TN #3-06 Earlier this off season, Young said he was not happy about being told he would back up Kerry Collins again in 2009. Now he has told The Sporting News and anyone else that will listen that he wants to start for Tennessee or be traded to a team that will start him.

In Young’s first year he started the last 13 games. The team went 8-5 over that stretch but it had very little to do with Young’s passing. His 51.5% competition rate and passer rating of 66.7 didn’t get it done. In 07, he started all but 1 game and had increased his competition rate to 62.3% but the 9 TDs were overshadowed by his 17 interceptions. Again, a 71.1 passer rating is not good enough.

When he was drafted there was talk about he and Mike Vick being the new bread of QBs in the NFL. Not so much. Both were victims of the learning curve in at the pro level and the transition from the college spread offense to the NFL under center passing game. They have taken somewhat related paths since then—Vick in prison for dog fighting and Young in the dog house of the coaching staff of the Titans.

Analysis: Vince—here is the problem. You are fundamentally unsound. Your mechanics are horrible. Your competition rate is inconsistent and you have never mastered the playbook. Until you are able to be consistent and execute the playbook effectively, expect to be riding the aluminum and carrying the clipboard for whatever team you end up with. Even if Collins gets hurt, I am not convinced that Young will get the call to replace him for any length of time.

I do not believe that Young will ever succeed at QB. The best he will ever achieve is a very good wild cat style QB. Young can not read defenses. He can not learn the playbook. He can not seem to get his mechanics straightened out.

Matt Leinart AZ #10-06 Like Vince Young, Leinart was a can’t miss prospect. He was shocked that he fell to the 10th overall pick. He was smart. He came from the pro style offense of USC and he was a winner. He was allowed to start from the 5th game on due to an injury to Kurt Warner from a totally inept line. Leinart did OK but his 74.0 passer rating wasn’t good enough to guarantee him the job in 07. With a new coaching staff, Leinart lost the QB competition to Warner in many minds but was still named the starter. In game 3, Warner was put in to try to pull the game out in the second half. Warner went 15 for 20 2 TDs and a QB rating of 150 against the Ravens. That was the beginning of the end for Leinart starting.

In 08 there was little doubt that Warner would be the starter. There was a preseason competition, but Warner started and led the team to the NFC West title and the Super Bowl.

Analysis: Leinart is probably the QB of the future for the Cards. The only question is when will the future get here. He clearly has not progressed along with the rest of the team. His 2.25 million salary cap is friendly enough to keep him around. Warner will play another couple of years most likely. Then, maybe, it will be Leinart time.

Kellen Clemens NJ #49-06 A second round QB does not have the pressure that a early first round pick carries into camp. He started most of the games in the second half of 2007 taking over for an injured Chad Pennington. His 52% competition rate and 60.9 QB rating was less than impressive. Even so, he went into the 08 season with a chance to win the starting QB position from Pennington. But when the owner decided he wanted to grab the back page of the Post by signing Bret Favre, Clemens was second string and Pennington was history.

Analysis: This season, the Jets traded up to get Mark Sanchez with the 5th pick. Clemens will be a reserve or elsewhere in 09.

Tarvaris Jackson MN #64-06 Jackson has been the designated starter for the Vikes since the end of the 06 season. In 07 he started 12 games but was hurt badly enough to miss 4 others. He amassed a 70.8 passer rating and 58.2 competition percentage. The team depended on the running of Adrian Peterson. When the opponent put 87 guys on the line of scrimmage, the Vikes offense stalled because Jackson was too inaccurate to take advantage of the situation.

Analysis: It is looking more and more like Jackson will get “Favred” like Pennington and Clemens did last year. Expect Favre to come if he can lift a football above his shoulder and maybe even if he can’t. Jackson is not going to be the future QB of the Vikes. After a second Favre disaster in 2 years for 2 teams, the Vikes will make other arrangements.

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,COLLEGE FOOTBALL,NFL DRAFT,Young,Leinart,Pennington,Clemens,Titans,Cardinals,Jets,Vikings,salary cap

The Cavs are a 1972 Comet with a Ferrari engine.

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Our Comet is old and looks slow. But the horsepower provided by the engine will eventually tear the car apart.

The Cavs won last night. Lebron James, the Ferrari engine, had a direct hand in the last 32 points by his team. He either scored or had an assist on each of those shots. The problem for the Cavs is no matter how this series turns out the team needs to be reworked this off season if they want to have any chance to keep Lebron in town after June 2010.

The Cavs are fine as they stand for the regular season. They feed nicely on the Knicks, Wizards, Pacers and such. They can win at home against the Bulls and Celtics. The problem is that in the playoffs, they have one REALLY bad match-up—The Magic. And unless the Cavs can win a title this year or next, Lebron is most likely going to go to a team that can. Could you even imagine how good the Magic would be with Lebron? Would you rather spend the winter in Orlando or Cleveland?

If Lebron went to the Magic, that team would win 6 or 7 straight titles.

Due to the Bird exception in the salary cap, the Cavs are going to be able to offer Lebron more money than any other team. But money is not what motivates Lebron. He is a winner. He doesn’t want to be saddled with a team that wins in the regular season but falls short in the playoffs.

What the Cavs have:

In the NBA, it is not a question of what a team should do to improve. It is a question of what a team CAN do to improve. With guaranteed contracts, NBA players are a lot like the Scud Missile under Saadam—You can’t fire it and you can’t make it work. But the Cavs should have a lot of wiggle room in the 09 off season.

Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, and Lorenzen Wright are unrestricted FA at the end of the season. That should free up over 29 mil in salary cap. In addition, Zydrunas Ilgauskas has an early termination option (ETO) in his contract. The team could lose him as well freeing up another 10.8 mil.

After next season, Sasha Pavlovic and Ben Wallace are free agents in addition to James with his player option. Together the three will provide 33 million in free money.

Anderson Varejao has a player option. If he doesn’t like what the Cavs are doing, he is likely to go. He has played fairly well this season. He is not starting quality but would be an excellent off the bench energy player for a contender.

What the Cavs need:

The series against Orlando makes one thing clear—to win championships they are going to have to beat the Magic in the playoffs over the next few years. They can not do that now.

The most critical needs for the Cavs are a reliable 3 point scorer and a quick big man with the feet to defend Howard and rebound. The Cavs had a chance to bring Ohio State alum SG Michael Redd to Cleveland a couple of years ago but did not. He is a consistent 3 point gunslinger.

The plan of all plans for the Cavs (that will never happen but should):

Kobe Bryant has an ETO in his contract this season. He want the max contract but he wants to win more. Bring Bryant in to pair with Lebron. You have 33 mil next year to give to Lebron. If Bryant comes in, Ilgauskas will stay. That would provide the Cavs with the scoring they need and one more outstanding defensive force. You can find another D player with a little scoring ability for the mid range exception.

Would Bryant come to Cleveland? Good question. To win a couple of titles, he might. There is no question that Bryant wanted to prove that he could win a title without Shaq. But given a chance with a short contract, he might be willing to come.

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: NBA,Playoffs,Cavilers,Magic,salary cap,Howard,Lebron,James,Redd,Bryant,Kobe Bryant,Knicks,Wizards,Pacers,Bulls,Celtics

Niblets for 5/16/09

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Best comment of the week:

Comment on The NBA Playoffs are rounding first and staggering toward second. by Free T Shirts: Cleveland is on a mission. I like the way Lebron is taking the team on his shoulders and pushing them to sweep teams. He has help this year but he’s making sure there are no slip-ups.

There is no question that the difference between the Lakers and the Cavs is Lebron. Kobe has the better and deeper team. Lebron has the leadership that Kobe Bryant lacks. That plus home court will be the difference IF the Lakers make it past Houston and Denver.

Updates on previous columns:

NBA Playoffs—What have we learned? One of the things we have learned is that the Lakers don’t seem to be able to put a team away when they have a chance. They allowed the Rockets to tie up the series 3-3 after a lackluster 95-80 loss Thursday night. The Celtics are no better at locking up the deal as they too allowed an underdog Orlando Magic team to tie their series as well. Neither of these teams look like champions to me.

Cuban faces a tough decision about PG Jason Kidd. Kidd is a free agent and the trade for him didn’t work out like the Mavs hoped it would. Expect the Kidd to be set free.

Mavericks’ Owner Mark Cuban is a punk! I got a couple of people complained a bit about how tough I was on Cuban. One said that his anger should be excused because he has so much invested in the team. I would feel a lot more sympathy for him if the Congress had not played politics with Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac and caused the world to lose half of its wealth.

The Commissioner suspends the entire National League for 50 Games! Manny Ramirez of the LA Dodgers has taken some hits. Manny met with his team for the first time since his suspension and apologized for his actions. The Dodgers are still in first place with the league’s best record and will probably will win the NL Worst with or without Manny.

Niblets fresh off the cob:

Basketball great Wayman Tisdale passes. After becoming the Oklahoma Sooner top scorer and rebounder ever, Tisdale had a 12 year steller career in the NBA. What most fans don’t know is that he was also a very accomplished jazz musician. He died of cancer and will be missed.

The NFL salary cap will be raised to 128 million. The increase is due to the players not getting all the money that it was supposed to last year. This will be an increase of 12 million over the last estimate. It will be a great help to those teams that are struggling to sign rookies this year.

Lebron’s MVP puts pressure on Kobe. Kobe has yet to prove he can win a championship without Shaquille O’Neill. The face to face final against Lebron’s Cavs would make winning his own ring even more important to Kobe. The fact is he will be lucky to get to the finals and I don’t expect him to win the series against Cleveland if he does.

An NFL free agent finds that you can go home again. LB Jason Taylor is passing up more money with Washington to go back to play with the Dolphins. He told reporters he wanted to be closer to his family. An unstated reason that Taylor wanted to go back to Miami is that he feels that the Dolphins are a lot closer to a championship than the Redskins are. Expect the Dolphins to fail to equal their record last year. They have a 1st place team schedule including the entire NFC East in 4 straight weeks.

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: nba,nfl,playoffs,Lakers,Cavs,Lebron,James,Kobe,Bryant,Cuban,Kidd,Maverics,Ramirez,MLB,steroids,suspension,free agent,Taylor,salary cap,Tisdale

February 28th a giant date for the NFL.

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Fryingpan Sports

February 28th a giant date for the NFL.

By Bill Smith

In one of his first public statements, the newly elected Executive Director of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) DeMorris Smith gave hope to millions of NFL fans. Smith said that he wanted to get started on negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) as soon as possible. While no one should hold his breath, there is a chance that the NFLPA and the owners can come up with a system that is going to acceptable to everyone involved.

February 28th is a key date in both 2010 and 2011. If the two sides can come to agreement and the players ratify it before 2/28/10, the uncapped year could be avoided. There is enough money for everybody. The cap for 2009 was originally estimated to be around 105 million, due to the TV contracts and other increases in revenue, the new cap is now over 116 million per team. That also raises the minimum salary to nearly 99.5 million which is the amount every NFL team must spend on salaries and player bonuses.

There are a number of poison pills placed in the last year of the contract by agreement of the two sides in the last negotiations in an attempt to facilitate a new deal. As things stand now, in 2010 there is no salary cap and no minimum. A team could conceivably cut all their NFL players and hire a semi-pro team at 100K each. That would save over 94 million dollars. There is also a change in free agency. Players with 6 seasons of service by the end of the 09 season under the old agreement would have been unrestricted free agents. Since the owners opted out of the agreement, those players can not get free agency until they reach 8 seasons of service. That will cost many players millions of dollars in free agent contracts.

The owners get some poison as well. The playoff teams can only replace players lost in free agency despite the uncapped year. And even a single uncapped year could drastically change the balance of power in the league for years to come. If a small market team takes advantage of the elimination of the minimum salary, it could poison the fan base and make a move necessary.

The second February 28th that is critical is in 2011. Unless the parties get a deal before that date, there will be a lockout for sure. Let’s hope things don’t get to that point.

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,lockout,pro football,NFL Players association,Owners,free agency,free agent,collective bargaining agreement,salary cap

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