Posted on: March 15, 2011 9:33 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 9:34 am

Will players negotiate before April 6 court date?

Posted by Andy Benoit

With the NFL set to go to court April 6, a few optimists have suggested that the union and owners could spend the next few weeks continuing negotiations. But some players are saying don’t count on it.

Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted Monday night, “One NFLPA source said there's ‘no chance’ there will be negotiations, or even possibly a deal, before April 6 lockout hearing is resolved.”

NFL Labor

Given the deal the players left on the table Friday before decertifying – a deal that reportedly included increased health benefits, a 16-game regular season and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue consideration – maybe the news from Schefter’s source should come as no surprise.

Then again, this also contradicts what Cardinals kicker Jay Feely told Pro Football Talk earlier in the day on Monday. Feely, who has been negotiating already, “I don’t know the exact legal ramifications for how and when we would have to negotiate and continue to negotiate. We’re always willing to negotiate so, we have no desire to be stagnant in a litigation system and our desire is to play football.”

Who knows who is speaking the truth (or if the players themselves have even made a decision about further negotiations).

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Category: NFL
Tags: CBA, lockout, NFLPA
Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:22 am

Report: Owners have cash to last through season

Posted by Will Brinson

The ruling where Judge David Doty shut down the NFL owners' ability to use more than $4 billion in television contracts during any work stoppage quickly rid the world of any notion that the billionaires could last two years without football.

I mean, they could, but not without hemorrhaging cash. However, a report Monday in the Wall St. Journal indicates that the gentlemen who run the 32 NFL franchises could in fact last one full season without football.

The WSJ report notes that the league would only need that money "if the labor strife drags on into the 2012 season" because "owners have already set aside enough money to cover them in case the 2011 season is cancelled."

That the NFL has a contingency plan for not being able to use the $4 billion isn't shocking, because Greg Aiello mentioned as much almost immediately following Doty's ruling. Also, the gentlemen in question are billionaire; they didn't gain that status without knowing a) to always have a backup plan and b) how to save money.

And they can almost certainly weather the financial storm of an NFL-less world than most of the players in the league. But that doesn't mean that not making a pile of money during the 2011 season is something that the owners want to see happen.

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Posted on: March 14, 2011 7:17 pm

Titans to fans: 'Yes, games could be cancelled'

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL's labor situation continues to become more and more potentially tumultuous -- a draft boycott everyone! -- in preparation of the April 6 hearing on the players' motion for preliminary injunction.

Still, the idea that there might not be NFL games in 2010 seems far-fetched. Or at least far off. Which makes a portion of the letter the Titans sent from Bud Adams to fans on Monday a bit terrifying.

"Yes, games could be cancelled," the letter said, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "However, both sides want to play and continue our great games. It is only a question of when we reach an agreement."

Now, this section was in an eight-part question-and-answer section (presumably the question was "Will games for next year be cancelled?"), so it's not as if the Titans were necessarily preparing their fans for the likelihood of games being missed.

Instead, they were simply answering a question that any reasonable fan of football might ask. What is kind of troubling, however, is that the Q&A wasn't included on the Titans' website when they posted the letter from Adams.

It's still a reminder that though most projections for football in 2010 are optimistic, the season isn't that far away.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 14, 2011 12:03 am

Contact with players could be fireable offense

Posted by Andy Benoit

With the NFL officially locked out, all coaches and team employees are forbidden from having any contact with players. This is obviously problematic for teams with new coaching staffs or young quarterbacks (or, in some cases, both). And it throws a wrench in offseason rehab for injured players.

Some outsider observers have suggested that the no contact policy will be skirted around, much like how teams skirt around tampering rules in the days leading up to free agency. After all, how can the league monitor who team employees call, email, text or bump into on the street? Impossible – or, at least, impossible to do thoroughly.

Thus, the NFL could instead make the punishment for this soft form of treason significantly harsh. If enforcing the law is undoable, make the deterrent for breaking the law unbearable.

Darin Gantt of the Charlotte Observer says, “One agent who represents a Panthers coach said they were told that contact was reason for firing with cause.”

Lower level employees are the ones who need to be on their toes. Head coaches or general managers might get scolded behind the scenes if caught communicating with players, but you’re not going to see a powerful leader get canned for such an offense.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 13, 2011 10:14 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 11:19 pm

2011 could wind up being an uncapped year

Posted by Andy Benoit

At some point in the near future, the NFL is going to establish some rules for doing business in 2011. That point could be fairly soon if the injunction request issued by players in their antitrust lawsuit is granted.

In that case, league-wide business would resume (not quite business as usual, but business nonetheless). Most importantly, free agency would begin.

Mark Maske of the Washington Post writes, “Sources from throughout the sport on both sides of the dispute said over the weekend that the system the league would enact at that point would be very likely to be the same system that was in effect last season, when there was no salary cap in the final year of the just-expired labor agreement between the NFL and the players’ union.”

The 2010 uncapped rules would mean no salary floor, as well. Players with expired contracts would need six years of NFL service in order to reach unrestricted free agency, which means a significantly dwindled free agent class. Each team would also have an extra transition tag (in addition to the one franchise tag and transition tag) and teams that reached the divisional round of the 2010 postseason would have limitation places on their ability to sign free agents.

Maske writes, “The reason that system would be used, sources said, is that it might have a better chance of withstanding an antitrust challenge by the players, given that the union previously agreed to those rules for an uncapped year in collective bargaining.”

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 13, 2011 6:17 pm

Could lockout help veteran quarterbacks?

Posted by Andy Benoit

If there is an extended lockout that winds up wiping out the offseason, veteran quarterbacks are going to become extremely valuable. Teams with needs at the position would be looking for guys who could step in and play right away.
M. Hasselbeck (US Presswire)
Obviously, this concept would seemingly make re-signing Matt Hasselbeck an even greater priority for the Seahawks. But should the 35-year-old not return to the Pacific Northwest, Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean believes he could land in Nashville.

I have no doubt Matt Hasselbeck is one name on the Titans’ radar,” Wyatt writes. “The long-time Seahawks quarterback, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, has ties to a Titans front office that includes GM Mike Reinfeldt, VP of Player Personnel Ruston Webster and Director of Pro Scouting Lake Dawson.”

Wyatt makes clear that Carson Palmer is at the top of Tennessee’s wish list, and that other available quarterbacks with less mileage than Hasselbeck (namely Kyle Orton and Kevin Kolb) could be in the mix.

This segues into a larger issue: how valuable will veteran quarterbacks be if there is no offseason?

Free agency will likely open up before the lockout concludes. Thus, teams will have to make their decisions based in part on predictions about when a new CBA will be reached. If the hunch is that a deal won’t be reached until late August or September, look for veteran quarterbacks with on-field playing experience to command more than their normal market value.

NFL Labor
Given the experience factor, a longtime starter like Hasselbeck would be more valuable than a young quasi-starter like Kolb. But perhaps more valuable than Hasselbeck would be a more traveled starter like Orton. Think about it: Hasselbeck has spent virtually his entire career in a West Coast offense. Orton learned multiple offenses in Chicago and Denver. He’d likely have an easier time picking up a new system on the fly.

The most interesting quarterback case to follow this offseason could be Donovan McNabb. He’s an experienced veteran with a stacked resume. Yet, the reason he’ll likely be available is because the Redskins didn’t think he did a good job learning Mike Shanahan’s unfamiliar system in 2010. If that stigmatizes McNabb in this uncertain offseason environment, he could suddenly find himself structurally unemployed.

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 2:03 pm

Broncos say they're willing to open their books

Posted by Andy Benoit

Well, it might be a moot point now (or at least for now), but the NFLPA knows it can access at least two teams’ books: the Green Bay Packers (a publicly owned team whose books were opened months ago) and the Denver Broncos.

The union likely knew it could view the Broncos’ books during negotations last week; team president Joe Ellis told Mike Klis of the Denver Post that the club offered to show its financial data, but the union didn’t want to take a look.

NFL Labor

"We offered to show the union league-wide and club profitability data," Ellis said. "Not only that it can be verified by a mutually agreed upon third-party auditor. This is the type of information we don't share with each other. In other words, we aren't allowed to see how other teams are doing specifically in terms of revenues and expenses. Everything is very formalized in terms of information we get from other clubs. Now the union didn't even want to look at it."

"If the league decides they want to open up the books of the Denver Broncos to present them to the union — I don't know if the league is into identifying individual clubs because they're private businesses," Ellis said. "But with a neutral (auditor) to verify the fact that certain teams haven't been operating as effectively as they did in the past, we're a willing and able participant.'”

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 9:53 pm

NFL PLAYERS working on 'non-NFL' sponsors

Posted by Will Brinson

As the league locked out the players Friday night, we listed seven important questions that fans should ask for the coming months. One thing we forgot to mention (and/or debate) was the state of endorsements for NFL players. As most folks know, they're marketed as a group and typically lined up with "league sponsors" in groups.

That's not the case anymore, however, and as the Sports Business Journal's Liz Mullen reports , NFL PLAYERS -- the license and marketing arm of the trade association formerly known as the NFLPA -- is looking for new sponsors with which "to align themselves."

"The NFL failed to renew, extend, or otherwise provide these rights for sponsors," Keith Gordon, NFL PLAYERS president, told Mullen.

And, as a result, NFL PLAYERS "is now actively engaging with non-NFL sponsors who seek to align themselves," Gordon said.

Think like, say ... beauty products.

Here's the interesting thing about how this works: though the players union decertified, the NFLPA still exists. (After all, it's an "Association" made up of "Players," even with the recent decertification.) So it will provide legal support for the players and, apparently, continue to market the players as well.

One thought that crossed my mind was the possibility that EA Sports' Madden franchise could face problems that baseball video games dealt with in the past with respect to individual licensing. (Perhaps you remember Giants slugger "Joe Young" from back in the day?) Well, that won't be the case here.

"No, the status [of the union] doesn't impact our business," Gordon told CBSSports.com.

This is because all individual players ink a Group Licensing Agreement ("GLA") that they "really can't opt" of in the event of something like decertification.

So, Madden's safe (though Gordon did point out that roster updates could be a bit slow to come through if the season is delayed), and there's no reason to think the players will be doing anything other than trying to work positively with current sponsors, given their no-paycheck-at-the-day-job situation.

What will be interesting to see is how Gordon and NFL PLAYERS approach "non-NFL sponsors." And if you're wondering what exactly constitutes such an endorsement, Gordon's description to me -- he called them "categories where we've not been engaged" -- is the best way to describe it. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com