For at least a few more days, dozens of high-priced NFL players still have jobs. NFL labor talks took a new twist Sunday night when the league and its players’ union agreed to postpone free agency another 72 hours, giving the sides more time to work out a deal on a contract extension. The decision came just four hours after negotiations had broken off, leaving many veterans in danger of becoming salary-cap casualties. Owners will meet Tuesday in Dallas to decide whether they want to take the union’s latest offer.
Free agency originally was supposed to start Friday, but was pushed back to 12:01 a.m. Monday. Now, it’s set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. In the meantime, the deadline for teams to get under the salary cap also was delayed.
The union broke off Sunday’s bargaining session. “The talks ended after the NFL gave us a proposal which provided a percentage of revenues for the players which would be less than they received over the last 12 years,” said Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association. “After suggesting we extend the waiver deadline from six o’clock to 10 this evening, they gave us a new proposal which was worse than their prior offer. Quite naturally, we rejected that proposal and saw no need to continue meeting.”
But Harold Henderson, the NFL’s executive vice president for labor relations, said the union rejected a proposal that would have added $577 million for players in 2006 compared to 2005 and $1.5 billion in the six years of the extension. “It’s an unfortunate situation for the players, the fans and the league,” Henderson said.
After a conference call between owners and league officials, including commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the league announced the extension. “The NFL and the NFL Players Association have agreed to extend the start of the 2006 league year for 72 hours â€” until 12:01 a.m., EST, Thursday, March 9 â€” in order to allow the NFL clubs to meet in Dallas on Tuesday to consider the NFL Players Association’s offer,” the NFL said.
Shortly afterward, Upshaw said: “The NFL negotiators called us tonight after our negotiations broke off to indicate that they will take our complete package to the owners for an approval vote on Tuesday.” “We have therefore agreed to extend the free agency deadline until midnight Wednesday in order to provide time for that vote to be accomplished,” he said.
The deal that NFL owners will vote on guarantees that players will receive 59.5 percent of all football revenue over the six-year extension of the CBA, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports. That 59.5 percent includes a “cash over cap” limit that addresses the concerns of low revenue clubs about how much teams actually spend on their payrolls in a given year.
The deal also includes the ability to give credits and make adjustments on individual teams’ spending on cash over the cap, according to what Upshaw told Mortensen. It is possible that a team that exceeds the spending limit will have their salary cap adjusted the following year by the amount they spend over the cap.
What’s interesting is that it’s rather clear that the owners are the ones making the most concessions, even though it appears from my vantagepoint that the players are the ones hurt most without a new contract. While going without a salary cap would benefit a handful of players, the longer wait before achieving free agency, lack of minimum salaries, and lack of a spending floor would almost certainly hurt the vast majority of players.
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