With the 2010 season fizzling out, and the accompanying realization that all good things must come to an end, I thought I would clear out my notebook of league happenings.
I know some people in Derek's thread worried that I would be launching a 400 part series on the CBA. Not to fear. I am not a reporter, so I won't be breaking stories this off-season. What I can provide is a framework to consider as the off-season unfolds.
This will, of course, be the dominant discussion of the off-season. Owners and players are playing a game of chicken. I just don't understand why. I highly recommend reading this story. It says basically everything I have been wanting to write on this topic. Let me link it again because I really think this is everything you need to know about the state of the CBA right now.
In summary, the owners have opted out of the CBA and want the players to take a pay cut. What I don't understand is why. As the article (which I will link a third time for completeness) shows, there isn't much evidence that the owners have been harmed by the current deal or are suffering in terms of their businesses. Are they really going to go through the potential PR nightmare of a lockout in order to goose up what seem to be pretty solid margins?
Now, I have pointed out in the past that there is dead weight to cut in the salary cap. You could slice a pretty large amount off of the cap and player cash payout probably wouldn't be changed materially. The reality may well be that the current level of player compensation is at its natural point and that point is below the current cap. Certainly, the current cap isn't constraining salary growth in any way, but it also doesn't seem to artificially boosting it either. So if you are an owner, is this really worth risking the top line for?
The article I have repeatedly linked also has certain flaws. For instance, it measures rookie payout. That isn't the relevant measure. The relevant measure is payout on rookie contracts after the first year. That is when things blow up with guaranteed money and second-tier bonuses.
But the point is the same. Why is this happening? The owners don't seem to be losing money, or even making an inadequate profit. Are they really going to risk damaging the product by staging a lockout?
So the players think that the owners are bluffing. And the owners are trying to show they aren't. It makes no sense for a deal to not be reached. But with the high-ego people involved here, the most significant risk is that the owners follow through with their threats just to show the union that they can, and the union doesn't concede just to show the owners that they don't have to. And the end result makes everybody worse.
Right now, though, it is all posturing, just as it has been all along, each side trying to show the other side that they really aren't kidding. The NFL shows it is serious about short term pain for larger future margins. The players show they really think the NFL is bluffing, and won't harm the product and (what appear to be) the current attractive margins just to add a couple of percent more to its pockets.
At some point, they will start to negotiate, probably in the weeks following the Super Bowl, and then we will know. Right now, though, it is the same as it has been for the past 2 years: lots of noise, zero substance.