Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Line in the Sand

We've been concerned about the possibility of a player's strike in the NFL for awhile now; and it appears that we now know what one of the core issues will be in the upcoming death match: a rookie salary cap.

On the day after the NFL draft concluded commissioner Roger Goodell went on ESPN radio's "Mike and Mike" show and told the world that he is "a big fan of the rookie salary cap."

Then two days later Pro Football Talk alerted us to comments by Patriots' owner Robert Kraft, in a piece by Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe, that "[i]t's kind of nuts that you pay draft picks in the top 10 as if they were free agent veterans on their second contract and have been to a Pro Bowl."

But beyond just complaining about the "system" the outline of the NFL's method of attack is clear -- pit the league's veterans (i.e. the NFLPA membership) against the rookies. Need proof? Here is more from Roger Goodell:
"I think that it is very much in the best interest of our veteran players, being able to be rewarded for what they achieve on the NFL field, and to the kind of money that's being guaranteed for rookies that have not played – there's still a question of whether they can play at the NFL level. That's something that I don't think is appropriate, and I think it's one of the things that we've already outlined with the union that we want to discuss and reevaluate it."
And more from Robert Kraft:
"We've suggested to the Labor Committee and the commissioner that we scale that back and take that money and give it to the veterans. We're still going to spend the money, [but] we think it's a misallocation of resources and actually can cause problems in your locker room when a young guy who has never played a down is getting paid more than some of your vested veterans."
Despite Gene Upshaw's contention that the NFLPA will never agree to a rookie salary cap there appears to be some support for the concept amongst veterans. The following is from a piece written by Chris Cooley, tight end for the Washington Redskins (thanks to Pro Football Talk!):
"The point here is that if a rookie in any other profession could step on the scene and make more than someone with a proven track record, the business would turn upside down. Imagine a first year staff accountant making more money than a senior partner simply because his 10 key skills were top in his class. This is basically what's happening in the NFL. Players are making money simply based on the number they were taken. Something with this system needs to change."
Creating a schism amongst the players on this issue won't prove to be much of a challenge for the owners; and what happens then (can anyone say "decertification"?) is anyone's guess.

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