NFL Lockout: Grading the New NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement
A little while back I wrote a column, "5 Changes the NFL Needs To Make with the Lockout," detailing the five most important issues that the NFL needed to address in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Now that the deal is done and the details of the agreement have been made public, let’s hand out grades for how the league did at addressing each of these five areas.
All details of the deal can be found here.
5. Benefits for Retired Players
They really did a good job on this one.
There were several new additions to the league’s offerings for retired players. In total, the deal calls for $900 million to $1 billion in total compensation for the retired players over the life of the 10-year deal.
The largest portion of the pie will be $620 million that will be used to create the new “legacy fund," which will benefit players who retired from the league prior to 1993.
Some other new programs that the league will offer to retired players are improved health care, disability plans and programs designed to help players ease into their post-playing years.
The league really did the right thing by the players in this area, especially taking care of the players who built the league during the years before they were paid millions and millions of dollars for their services.
4. Stadium Financing
This was a quiet win for the league, but a big one.
The new deal calls for incentives, up to 1.5 percent of revenue in each year, to be given back to owners who use their own money for stadium investments.
These incentive payments are a good way for the league to use its considerable resources to build the new generation of football stadiums.
After the costs involved for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to build his team’s new home, it became really obvious that these new stadiums were going to cost huge sums money, and that all the owners were going to need to be involved in building each other's new stadiums.
3. Better Concussion Rules
The league made small strides in this area.
They didn’t make any big splashes specifically in regards to head injuries, but they did address the general issue of player safety.
The new deal allows for an “enhanced injury protection benefit” for players who are unable to earn the money in their contract due to injury.
The league also made improvements to the health care of the retired players which should help those who suffered concussions during their playing career, including the ability to remain in the active players medical plan for life.
Head injuries, and the effect they have on the players, will continue to be an issue that the league will have to face in the coming years.
2. 18-Game Schedule
A win for the players on this one.
The schedule will stay the same, with four preseason games and a 16-game regular season.
The owners used this as a negotiating tool, posturing like they were going to force it down the players' throats but then backing down in return for favorable advantages in other areas of the new deal.
I would have liked to see the new deal swap two of the meaningless preseason games for two games that count, but in the end, if the schedule isn’t broke then there was no need for the owners to make the 18-game regular season a deal-breaker.
The owners haven’t completely given up on this issue though; the deal does say that the schedule can be extended to 18 games after the 2013 season if agreed upon by the players.
1. Rookie Salary Scale
This was the one aspect of pro football that was so clearly broken that both sides knew major changes were needed.
Well, changes were made. The changes are a good first step, but were probably not major enough.
There will be a cap on the total amount of compensation each team can allot to its rookies every year; in return, the players get shorter initial pro contracts.
Drafted rookies are all going to be on four-year deals, and undrafted free agents are going to sign three-year deals. This length could have been even shorter. In football, it become pretty obvious who is for real and who isn’t after just the first couple of years. Both sides, and especially the competitive balance of the league, would benefit from having rookie salaries become renegotiable at an earlier time.
At least the league attempted to address the obvious need for a new rookie salary system; time will tell if they did enough to truly fix the problem.