2011 NFL Lockout, CBA Roundup: Armageddon approaches

There's not been a whole lot of new information related to the CBA in recent days, but I thought I'd share what little there has been and give a primer on what the landscape will look like assuming there's a 2011 NFL Lockout (or the union decides to decertify).

The two sides tabled discussion last week (no doubt because of the combine), and have agreed to resume discussion tomorrow. The deadline is Thursday before the owners shut down the doors and lock out the players. Between now and then there three things that could happen.

1.) The owners and the union come to an agreement in principle, preventing a lockout. This would be the best case scenario where the basic framework of a deal is laid down, with the details to be filled in later.

2.) The two sides agree to extend the deadline by however much time they think is needed. In 2006 the league and the union were in this exact same situation. The negotiations for a new labor deal started extremely late, there were several days of intense negotiating, but no deal done when the dead line came up. The two sides agreed to a 3 day extension and by the second day a new deal was done, preventing a stoppage of football. 

3.) The union decertifies. This happens when the two sides reach what is called a labor impasse. The owners bring what's called their "last best offer" to the table and say take it or leave it. If the union leaves it they can then decertify (they've already received unanimous consent from the players to do this if needed), and will no longer represent the players as a trade union. This will allow individual players to sue teams for various anti-trust violations and restrictive competition.

However, there's a catch here. Based on the current CBA agreement, players have to wait 6 months after a lockout begins before they can bring any suit against the owners. To avoid this, the union would have to decertify before the 4th to avoid this. By decertifying the union would lose any credibility with their claim that the owners are forcing them not to play, since this is a proactive move. There are good reasons for the union to do this, but it will go against everything they've been saying since the start of this process.  If this happens expect a long delay in getting back to football, since the process will be essentially starting over from scratch. In my mind this scenario presents the most likelihood of missed games. 

4.) The union takes no action and the lockout happens on March 4th without decertification. This last one is highly unlikely. If a deal is not going to happen, the union will decertify to have that legal leverage. They've already gotten unanimous consent from the players to do this if they feel it's necessary.

So, what will business look like in the NFL with a lockout?

Teams:

  • Can't sign any free agents (including their own)
  • Can't cut players (expect to see a rash of players getting cut in the next couple of days
  • Coaches can have no football related contact with any player on their team
  • Expect to see many assistant coaches placed on furlough, as well as office support personnel. Some coaches might see a significant cut in pay if there's a prolonged stoppage

"Every team has their own clauses in the contracts. Many of them are similar, but there are some differences," said Larry Kennan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association. "Most treat the coaches pretty fairly. It might be three to six months they'll go into the lockout before they start cutting pay. Some, though, if there's a lockout in March . . . will start losing pay immediately but they'll still be expected to work full-time. Other teams are saying if there are no games missed, the coaches will be reimbursed. There's nothing really we can do about it.

"Of 32 teams, 20, 21 really treat their coaches fair and with respect. There are about 10 or 12 that do not."

 

  • I also would expect to see a change in drafting strategy given that there will be no free agency to fill needs on the team. 

When asked about drafting BPA vs Need, Tom Coughlin had this to say

 

"I'd say you'd probably have to flip it," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You know exactly what your needs are. Maybe it takes two people.

"To the point of your question, it would be an inverted order."

 


Players
  • Will not receive any roster bonus money owed to them until a new CBA is reached
  • Can not use any medical facilities of their team to do any rehab that they might do
  • Will not have access to team doctors for medical checkups
  • Will not have their health care covered by the team and will have to use COBRA (one player had his wife induced this week so that his team would cover the cost of labor)
  • They will be able to use the team's facilities for working out, but can not have a regimen put together by the team strength and condition coaches. 
Quoth Adam Schefter
A different kind of labor: Wife of NFL player had labor induced last week so NFL team footed the bill, not the family through COBRA.    
  • Can not study any playbooks
The Browns were recently warned by the NFL about contact with players. Mike Holmgren thought that he could at least give his players a playbook

The fact Pat Shurmur is new ... Colt and some players have come in. We can give him a playbook, have him study it, but you can't have meetings. You have all this stuff going on, so at the very least you've got to be able to give him [a playbook]."    
However, at the Combine the NFL met with the teams and told them that they could not, in fact, give playbooks to their players, which is kind of a big deal. 
  • Can not have contact with their coaches, but can have contact with other players. For example, a QB can throw to his WRs in the off-season if he chooses to, he just can't have a coach there.

Rookies
  • The draft will take place as scheduled. First round on April 28, 2nd and 3rd rounds on April 29, and the 4th-7th rounds on April 30th
  • Will not be able to participate in any OTAs (I think this will have a big impact on the development of rookie players. They'll have far fewer opportunities to learn and make the team then they would in a regular season).  
Forbes has an interesting article about the impact on rookie development. I've highlighted a few relevant quotes.

"It's difficult being a rookie as it is," Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said. "I think it's really up to the individual. They're all at different points, but they're going to have to develop. If it's going to be an issue, though, it's going to be an issue for everybody."

That's not necessarily what the players want to hear.

"I don't think it would set us back," Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke said. "It would make us hungrier when we get into camp. It will probably cut down all the long contracts and just get guys right into camp."

"It's always a setback because you want to be able to learn as much as you can and get that jump on everybody," UCLA safety Rahim Moore said. "I hope there's a minicamp so I can get the playbook and learn as fast as I can. If you try to rely on a training camp, it can be a bad thing."    

  • Can not sign contracts with their team 

I'm still optimistic that a deal will get done and that there'll be no loss of games for 2011. The fact that the two sides met for 7 days of very intense negotiations is a positive sign for me, and that neither side has leaked any information is also positive. I think that if either side felt that nothing was going to be happening, they'd be all about leaking information to spin the news their way--this hasn't happened. 

I also think that the two sides are meeting again tomorrow is a good sign as well. If the two sides were absolutely nowhere close to a deal there would be no point in having another session just two days before the deadline. Right now I think that the most likely scenario is an agreement to extend the deadline to fit more negotiation in. Regardless, we'll have CBA wrap-up coverage every day until it's done (even if it's only a couple paragraphs worth of material).

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