The Collective Bargaining Agreement - By Nick Signorelli

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

While the NFL owners are sitting around, getting ready to begin the 2005 NFL season, they all have to be keeping an eye on ESPN Sports Center. Watching the NHL owners and players begin the smooching of fans rear ends, hoping to get as many of them to forgive them for the missed year. I myself never really enjoyed the NHL that much anyway. I am sure that NFL owners are not going to want to lose the kind of money the fans line their pockets with, even for one year. Players want more money, owners don't want to give it to them. This could get ugly.

I have the solution to this problem, though, I am sure no one that has any decision making ability in the NFL will even read this.

Salary Cap - The salary cap is the amount of money each team is permitted to spend in the NFL year. This amount is normally close to the amount that each team is paid by the league as their share of what the NFL makes from the networks. Now that the new TV contracts have been signed, the salary cap is probably going to jump at least $10-15 million, probably to around $110 million. The players want to increase this to include other money makers for the owners, like advertising, stadium naming rights, etc.

In my opinion, owners should have to take 20% from their other sources of income, and add it to the TV money. Take the average number of the 20%, from each team, and add that to the salary cap. I think there are even other ways to make improvements to the structure of how the salary cap is spent.

Rookies - Rookies are the biggest gamble of every franchise in the league. First round picks, especially early ones, normally sign contracts that are close to 6 years. With that comes the 8 figure signing bonus, so in order to lose one of these picks for 6 years is to take a major salary cap hit. I think ALL rookies should only be aloud to sign 3 year contracts. I think there should be a set signing bonus and yearly salary. I also think that incentives should be added. If the player starts in the first year, 20% bonus, if they make it to the Pro Bowl, 35% bonus. I don't think these incentive deals should even count against the salary cap. If a rookie reaches the incentive, he deserves it. I also think that the incentive program should be league wide. All players receive the same incentive deals, making it fair to every player drafted. In addition, having a structured salary would get the rookies into camp on time with every team, and the teams and players, will get to go to camp and not miss all that important practice time.

This way, there is much more money being made by the veterans, and if a player is what the team thought he would be, then they make the big money investment. If the player is a bust, the team didn't get hurt that much more. I also believe that these contracts should not be able to be renegotiated until the end of the second year.

Now, I know your saying to yourself, but if a player is free to go after his 3rd year, then the team that drafted him groomed him for another team. To this I say....

Free Agency - Right now there is, and I think there should be, both restricted and unrestricted free agency. If a players contract is up, unless designated the franchise player, he is free to go to the team that wants to pay him the most. I believe that all teams should be able to keep any of the free agents they want. To insure this, 25% of a veterans contract, if signed by the same team, shouldn't count against the salary cap. This way, if the player wants to leave for less money, that is his option. If he wants to stay put, it makes it easier for the teams.

Speaking of franchise players, I think it is obvious that there are NO players in the NFL that enjoy the franchise game. I think that there is an easy way to fix this problem also. Now that 25% of the salary is not against the salary cap, then there is no reason that a team should have to tag a player 3 years in a row. I think something the players would love; any team that uses the franchise tag on a player, the team loses the right of tagging anyone the following year. This way, teams wouldn't tag someone just to trade him, they would only tag him if they really wanted to keep him. If you franchise a player, you pay him equal to the highest paid person at that position at the time the tag was placed.

Salary Cap Hit - This is the punishment to teams that sign players to big signing bonuses, then decide to cut them, for whatever reason. I agree with this principle, but think this could also be adjusted. Lets say a player signs a seven year deal, with a $14 million signing bonus. That is $2 million per year against the salary cap. If, after 2 years, the player doesn't want to play for the team, or the team doesn't think the player lived up to expectations, they could release him for a salary cap hit of $10 million. (The signing bonus is distributed evenly over the length of the contract) Instead of this way, in order for teams not to be stuck with players, or players wanting to leave, the signing bonus should still count against the salary cap, just still at $2 million a year for the next 5 years. This way, the team is still paying for over paying, but it lets them stay competitive. This would also help some teams to consider trades a lot more often.

Out of this deal, the owners would still get to keep roughly 80% of all income, other than the TV deal. They also wouldn't get killed by salary cap hits by deciding to cut players. The players would benefit by being able to stay with the team they want, but if they want to leave, they will get paid accordingly if the team decides to franchise tag them to their position, but after one year they can go where they want. All veterans will make more money with the way rookies are paid, and a rookie has to prove himself before he gets to break the bank.

At least in my opinion.