Though it appears right now that the NFL and the NFLPA are never going to agree on a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and the 2011 season may be lost, I am here to assure you that there will, in fact, be football in 2011.
There are concerns with fans of every NFL team as to what is going to happen this offseason and what is going to become of their teams, even if a new CBA is agreed to.
I have no inside information as to what is going on in either the NFL camp, or that of the NFLPA, but I do have common sense. And that leads me to believe that there will be an agreement, and teams will have a chance to not only re-sign their own players, but still have a chance to bring in free agents to fill voids.
Here is how, in my OPINION, this offseason is going to play out.
One of the craziest things that people keep talking about is that the NFL is going to lock out the players on March 4th.
The fact is, the NFLPA can prevent this and has already taken the steps to do so.
The players that make up the NFLPA have already agreed that if the NFL were to lockout the players, they would de-certify and disband the NFLPA. The vote happened during the course of the year, and every team, with out exclusion, agreed to this.
That means on March 3rd, the NFL is going to give what they call their last, best offer.
At that point, the NFLPA has the option to either accept this, or de-certify.
If the NFLPA does de-certify, the offseason will go on under the "last, best offer". At that point, the players that make up the NFL will sue the NFL for anti-trust, and it will go to court.
The reason is because 32 different businesses that operate on the same field, against each other, are not permitted to make rules that the players have to follow, to the betterment of the individual teams.
This is the exact same thing that happened in 1987.
Looking back at what happened in 1987, neither the league or the players want to get to that point.
Usually during this part of the year, teams are negotiating with their players that are going to become free agents when the new league year starts.
Since there are no guidelines towards what teams are going to be able to spend on free agents next year, teams can not really even negotiate contracts, because they may void once the new CBA is reached.
If the witching hour of March 4 comes without a new CBA being agreed to, players rights will remain with the team that they are currently under contract until the new CBA is reached.
The NFL is going to have to have some type of stipulation that they have a certain period of time to negotiate with their free agents prior to them becoming unrestricted.
The only thing that a team can do prior to the new CBA being signed is applying the franchise tag to a player, but the NFLPA has stated that it will not be honored.
Which leads to...
Just like Steelers fans are concerned that LaMarr Woodley may be wearing colors other than Black and Gold next year, most every other team in the NFL has the same issues.
The NFL has notified the teams that they have a franchise tag that they are able to use on any of their players.
The NFLPA has stated that the clubs can not use the franchise tag, and agents are not supposed to even discuss it.
Translation: The NFL is going to insist in the new CBA that teams will still have the use of either the franchise or transition tag, and those teams that use them on a player will still be entitled to that players rights for next year.
This is simply part of the posturing of these two entities.
Teams that use the franchise tag will retain the rights to that player. Provided the Steelers use their tag on Woodley, which there is no way they won't, Woodley will still be a Steeler in 2011.
One of the funniest things I have heard this offseason is that the NFLPA is instructing the agents for players that are entering the 2011 NFL Draft that if a deal is not reached by the Scouting Combine, that they should hold their players out of the combine.
The reality is, players prior to being drafted are not a part of the NFLPA, and can not be until they are drafted. Why would a player refuse to participate in drills that would only serve to help his draft stock?
Sounds like cutting off your nose to spite your face, doesn't it?
With the reality that teams will not know what is going to happen with their free agents, this is going to be one of the most important in recent years.
These young men have been waiting for their whole lives for a chance to play in the NFL. A union that they are not a part of is not going to tell them that they can not do what is best for their future.
The NFL Draft will come, and it will happen, just as it has in years past.
The key difference in this year and years past is the trading that is going to happen is going to be without players.
Because there is no CBA, teams will not be able to use players to trade up in the draft, and the only way that they will be able to trade is if they only trade with picks.
The reality is, not often are trades made with players, at least not towards the top of the draft. Teams are going to pick the players they want, just as they would if there was a CBA in place.
One of the biggest sticking points in the new CBA is what is going to happen with the rookie contracts?
It is in the best interest of the NFL and the NFLPA to somehow agree to fix the issues with player contracts at the top of the first round of the draft.
Sam Bradford, because he was the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, signed a contract larger than proven players such as Aaron Rogers and Matt Ryan.
Sure, in Bradford's case, he seems to be worth the money. But for every Sam Bradford, there is a Ja'Marcus Russell or Ryan Leaf that sets a team back years because of their inability to perform between the white lines.
Not only that, teams that spend that kind of money on rookies have less to spend on the men that have proven they can play.
The fact will not change that even once a player is drafted, they will not even begin to negotiate contracts, because there is certain to be some type of rookie wage scale that no one can even begin to figure out what they can pay these rookies.
What is going to happen after the last, best offer? No one can possibly know what is going to happen at that point.
Without knowing what the "last, best offer" is, there is no way to even begin to know what is going to happen.
The one thing I am sure of, there are roughly 470 players that are going to be missing out on free agency. That means no checks, no signing bonus, no learning new systems.
Add to that, every player with a "work out" bonus is not going to get it.
Teams with new coaching staffs are not even going to be able to discuss play books with their players.
Rookies are not going to be able to sign contracts.
But the players are not the only ones that are going to be losing out.
The owners have reported that, as of March 4th, if there is no CBA that is available, they are going to lose roughly $40 million. And that number goes up and up every day until a new CBA is reached.
The NFL will also lose the ability to play a game outside of the USA, meaning any hopes to set up a franchise in another country is going to take a hit and be set years back.
As with the players, owners with new coaching staffs are not going to be able to even begin to install a new system, ruining any chances of success in 2011, once a new season does start.
As I have stated before, and will again, this is simply an argument between millionaires and billionaires.
As of March 4th, everyone's piece of the pie begins to shrink.
What this is is a case of killing the Golden Goose.
I understand that both the players and the owners are both doing what they believe is best for themselves. But, the reality is, we don't care.
The unemployment rate in America is at 9.2 percent. That means almost 1 in 10 people are without work. Those people are losing their homes, families are falling apart.
The minimum wage in America is $7.25 per hour.
In the NFL, league minimum is $285,000.
This is nothing but greed, and enough is enough.