NFL completes owners' meetings

Happy Memorial Day to everybody.  The first OTAs of the offseaso wrapped up last week and there was certainly plenty of excitement, particularly with the injury to Walt Harris.  However, I'd imagine things will quiet down until the next OTAs get going.  The 49ers might sign some minor free agents, but otherwise I'm not expecting much.

While the OTAs were going on, important league-wide business was taking place.  The owners held their annual May meetings last week in Ft. Lauderdale.  These meetings are particularly important in light of the new Executive Director of the NFLPA and the looming battle over a new collective bargaining agreement.  I realize some people are not all that interested in this subject, but long-time readers know this is something of great interest to me.

Some of the issues on the table at this meeting included the potential extended schedule (more regular season, less exhibition season) and including the hiring of general managers under the Rooney Rule.  The scheduling has yet to be completely figured out, as it will definitely involve negotiations with the players.

Rookie Salary Scale
Speaking of the players, the biggest issue revolves around the potential rookie salary scale.  Salaries have gone through the roof for rookie draft picks.  Whether that's just the way the economics of it will work or not, there are a lot of parties that have a problem with it.  The current veterans of the league are losing out on potential income (if more of the pie is going to rookies, that means less to veterans obviously).

The owners don't like it because of the economics of it.  The country is already in a recession and owners would certainly like to cut back on costs if at all possible.  It's hard to cut back on current player salaries, so the easiest option is the rookie pool.  And the only folks who would raise a stink would be agents.  I don't include the future rookies because they're not in the league yet and get no say.  However, current agents stand to lose a fair amount of money if a rookie scale is instituted.

What will be most interesting about this issue is what kind of leverage the union can gain, if any.  When negotiating a labor deal, it's all about having bargaining chips.  In the end, this might not really be much of a bargaining chip for either side.  They both want it to happen.  Any thoughts on how it might otherwise play out?

Television Deal and War Chest
There was one other bit of owner news that was rather intriguing.  The league announced their extension with Comcast last week, but made other news with their new deals with Fox and CBS.  The league will see a 1 to 2% increase in tv money which is always good for the league.  More importantly though, the league is guaranteed money in 2011, even if there's a strike that season.

That kind of deal is huge for the owners for many reasons.  Aside from just getting the money no matter is the fact that owners can remain united in the face of a strike.  One of the benefits of a strike to the striking employees is the economic damage that can be done to the employer.  While the owners would certainly lose a good deal of money if there was a strike, this tv deal guarantees them a large portion of their annual revenue.

Conclusions
Given what baseball, basketball and hockey have been through over the last fifteen years, one could argue football would be foolish to follow them down the path of a work stoppage.  As they say, those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it.  Let's hope both sides have recognized the mistakes of the other leagues and unions.

Given the rough economic times many folks are facing, fans would certainly not look kindly upon millionaires and billionaires getting in a pissing contest over billions of dollars.  At the same time, you don't have to be a genius to make your millions or billions.  It's entirely possible that stubbornness kicks in and the two sides reach a stalemate.  It'd be an awful shame, but at this point, anything is possible.

Supposedly the two sides will open talks in this coming month.  I'm sure we'll get plenty of sabre-rattling over the coming year.  Even with negotiations starting, it's still way too early to see how things will go down.  However, I think this is sufficiently important enough that I'll do what I can to keep updates flowing on the subject matter.

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