Things don't look good to avoid an uncapped year in the NFL.

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In the vote for the existing NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) only two teams voted against the deal that granted the players 60% of total revenues. Those two were the Bengals and the Bills. These two were maligned by a couple of other owners for being short sighted. Now all 32 teams agreed to opt out of the agreement. The 30 that voted for the deal realized that they can not survive with 40 percent of the gross revenues.

The combination of a sever recession brought on by politicians using the economy for social engineering and the reduction of revenues retained by the team have made the owners resolute in their positions. The NFL Players Association is just as resolute.

The new Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sounded very moderate the day that he won the job over a couple of former players. That was then. Today on ESPN Radio Mike and Mike show, the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger S.”The Hammer” Goodell, talked about some of the issues that the league is facing. He talked about the absolute necessity of the Commissioner having the right to discipline both players and teams that violate the code of conduct. He also said that there was no interest in softening the game blackout rules.

Smith had been listening to the Commissioner and called to rebut what was said. He said that the issue of discipline for the players has to involve an independent arbiter and that will become an issue in negotiations with the owners. He also indicated that the decision about such issues as blackouts should be done jointly between the owners and players. If the players are truly a partner in the game, they should have input to such critical decisions.

There have been 2 formal and a couple of informal negotiating sessions since the owners decision. There have been no proposals from either side and no sign of progress. If there is no new agreement to take effect the first day of the 2010 season, 2010 will be an uncapped year with very different rules than 2009.

The players will benefit from the uncapped year only if their contract has expired and they have 6 years of NFL season credit. NFL season credit is very complex and such things as injury, practice squad and played games are handled differently to determine a credit year. In 2009, a player became unrestricted after 4 seasons credit.

The rules also change for the use of the Transition and Franchise tags. Prior to the 09 season, once you used a tag, it could not be reused for the duration of the contract that was signed. If you give a player a tag then sign him to a 6 year contract, you can not use the tag on any other player for the length of the contract unless the player is no longer on the roster. In an uncapped 2010 all teams get both tags for use again regardless of a prior use. That will likely prevent two of the most attractive free agents of each team from moving.

There are a bunch of “little” issues that separate the sides. Forget those. There are only 3 issues that will determine if a deal gets done or not. Here they are listed in reverse order of their importance.

The percentage of revenue that is allocated to the players. Right now, 60% is too high for the owners but too low for the players. The NFL has floated the concept of adding 2 regular season games and eliminating 2 preseason games for which the players receive a tiny stipend. That would result in more total money going to the players even under a smaller percentage of total revenue. There are several issues with this solution that have to be worked out but that is the only way this issue can be resolved.

The reinstatement of a hard salary cap. This is critical. Look at the disparity of team payrolls in baseball. Given the economics of the game, there is no way that half of the teams in MLB will ever make the playoffs. Of course a team can sneak up on the playoffs like the Marlins have but the next year they will be forced to sell off their team’s best players. This would change the basic nature of the NFL game. Without out a hard cap, there would be no profit sharing with the exception of the national TV contracts. Right now the NFL shares a larger percentage of their revenue than in any other sport. In my estimation, the elimination of the cap and revenue sharing would cause no less than 8 teams to fold.

The lack of guaranteed contracts. This is the white wale of the negotiations. MLB and the NBA have guaranteed contracts. That has led to the inmates (players) running the institution (the leagues). The campaign for Exec. Director by the two players focused on this issue. Smith had not brought this issue up during the campaign but has since. In my opinion this is a deal breaker.

Neither of the other leagues are contact sports. The number of player that are injured and able to return but at a reduced capacity is very high in the NFL compared to the other sports. The single thing that makes the NFL the best league is the lack of guaranteed deals. How long do you think Manny Ramirez would last in New England? Not as long as it takes most people to say his name. Players with huge attitudes perform or are gone.

What will happen?

2010-an uncapped year. There will be no deal before the start of the 2010 season. It will be an uncapped year.

2011 season will see a work stoppage. These three issues cause a logger head that prevents a deal. The players walk out of negotiations and the league hires replacement players to play the season. Does anyone have the phone number of Tim “I’m on the” Couch?

If you wonder what its like to coach in the semi-pro leagues, just watch Bill Belichick deal with a team of street free agents. Now that would make the HBO show “Hard Knocks” worth watching. The UFL will flourish and gain market share. The NFL will muddle through the season. Then when the draft is scheduled, the players will come back and the two sides will find a way to resolve the issues.

But the damage will have been done. The league will never match the high water mark of 2008-2009 again.

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,Goodell,Smith,strike,lockout,NFL Draft,salary cap,guaranteed contract,uncapped year,CBA,nba,MLB

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