Five years later, here the NFL and its players are again, trying to rush to get a CBA so they can continue with their business—namely free agency, which was supposed to start Thursday.
In 2006, they pushed free agency back a day. This time, it has been delayed for over a week—assuming they get a deal done by next Friday.
Last time they let it go to the end, the owners panicked and let lame-duck commissioner Paul Tagliabue and union chief Gene Upshaw pressure them into the first truly bad deal the owners had ever signed with the players. The owners quickly grew to regret agreeing to give the players almost 60 percent of league revenue, and now they want some of it back.
Basically, NFL owners realized they were in danger of losing their game to the players, like baseball did 35 years ago. That’s why Major League Baseball has a horrible business model and largely uncompetitive league.
NFL owners want to take back control of their game, and it’s hard to blame them. Players come and go, but the franchises are the constant that keeps the league moving. For that reason, it doesn’t make any sense that players would receive more money than the franchises they play for. But they do, because the owners agreed to pay it.
The NFL brings in $9 billion a year, with the players receiving $4.8 billion and the owners getting $4.2 billion—$1 billion off the top and 40 percent of the rest.
The owners want to take more off the top before splitting the rest. But to get back something they have already given up, the owners are going to have to give up some things they value. And the more money they want, the more they are going to have to give up.
The sides apparently have made enough progress to make each other think they can get a deal done, and they have agreed to extend their mediated discussions for a week.
Jeff Pash, the NFL’s chief negotiator, told reporters he’s looking forward to “a solid week of negotiations.”
“There’s been a tremendous amount of discussion,” Pash said. “It’s time for us to dig deep and try to find solutions, try to be creative and try to compromise in a way that will work for everybody. The commissioner has been very clear: If both sides give a little, everybody can gain a lot.”
In that spirit, here are some creative solutions and compromises for the issues: