As 2011 looms ever closer, it is increasingly clear that the NFL is not taking this lockout business very seriously.
Recently, the NFL Players Association sent an offer to the league with a proposal, dealing with a problem that Roger Goodell is just as interested in ridding the owners of—astronomical rookie wages.
Under the current system, a player drafted in the first round expects to make quite a bit more than many players at his position in the NFL. Top draft picks are immediately thrust among the top-paid players. Last year's top pick, Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford, will make almost $27 million in 2010—a staggering number by almost any calculation.
These contracts are given to players who have never played a professional snap of football and could spend just as much time in McDonald's as in the film room.
The NFLPA had a simple solution :
"We went to the owners, and they raised the issue about the rookie wage scale," (NFLPA Director DeMaurice) Smith said. "We said, 'Fine, let's cut every rookie's contract to three years, instead of six years.' That would pull $200 million out of the draft.”
Sounds like a pretty fair plan, correct?
The biggest millstone around the neck of a top-drafting team is not only the money, but rather commitment up-front and guaranteed money over six or seven years to a rookie who might only play three or four years before selling insurance.
Obviously the NFL was never going to accept the first proposal, but instead of countering with a deal that also severely limited signing bonuses, the NFL flatly rejected it.
“We proposed giving $100 million to retired players to improve their pensions, and we said, 'Use the other $100 million and guarantee it to veteran players in the locker room.' The owners said 'no,' that they weren't willing to guarantee that money to proven veterans in the locker room.”
The union believes this is just another one of the many examples of the NFL refusing to fairly pay its current and former employees—the people who have made and continue to make the NFL a profitable business.
The NFLPA has already broached the "collusion" topic, and has openly questioned why the NFL refuses to open its accounting—a "must" in negotiation based mostly in percentages. The NFLPA's website even has a “lockout central” page that features a lockout countdown and accuses the NFL of hiding a billion dollars in revenue from the players.
The NFL has a side to this story, too. As of now, it is “no comment.”
A rookie wage scale is just one of the many different facets of the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations, but to this point, the NFL does not seem interested in negotiating. It has even been suggested that the NFL is looking forward to a lockout because of its hefty DirectTV deal that pays owners regardless of whether or not the games are actually played.
A possible lockout is 292 days away.
The NFL needs to get serious about the CBA.
Major League Baseball was once seen as America's Pastime. Thanks to a strike, an entire generation grew up not caring about the game and are now just making a comeback to the game.
The NHL might never recover.
The NFL owners will not suffer in a lockout. Many of them—Paul Allen, Stephen Ross, Bob McNair, William Clay Ford, Malcolm Glazer, et al.—have large amounts of capital in ventures outside of football. They will not be easily swayed by an impending strike.
For the sport of football—now firmly entrenched as America's game—for the fans here and growing rapidly abroad, for the players—not just the multimillionaire faces, but also the end of the roster players/camp invitees who depend on the NFL not for lavish mansions but for food on the table—for the retired players too sick or injured to work...
Michael Schottey operates Blue And Silver Pride and is a Detroit Lions featured columnist for Bleacher Report . He also serves as a team correspondent for DraftTek.com and is a guest blogger for Mlive's Highlight Reel . Check out his Podcasts and add him on Twitter .