The deadline for a new CBA has well passed and even if a deal was reached in the next few days it could not be applied to this season. More questions have been raised than have been answered, but there a few things we know for sure.
Who's To Blame?: The Owners
Despite what has been widely reported, the central disagreement which prevented a new CBA from being negotiated was the quarrel between high-revenue and the low-revenue franchises. Currently, 80% of NFL revenues are shared but some clubs have created ways to squeeze more money out of the unshared 20%. On the high end you have teams like the Redskins who generate $300 million a year in revenues. On the low end are teams such as the Vikings and Cardinals with revenues of $150 million.
Low revenue teams argue that the much ballyhooed NFL parity is threatened by this revenue gap between franchises. For example, the Redskins can afford to pay their coaches more money than any other team in the league.
On the other hand high revenue teams contend that they are being punished for their entrepreneurialism. These owners have done a better job of running their business, and now the less successful business owners want to step in and take their hard earned money.
Both sides failed to find a common ground, which leads us to . . .
What Happens Next?: Bloody Thursday
Most of the cuts have already started, but eight teams are at least $13 million over the cap. Those teams are the Redskins, Raiders, Chiefs, Jets, Broncos, Falcons, Titans and Bucs. The Broncos have already released Mike Anderson, their leading rusher from last season.
The Bucs will most likely have to cut somebody (since they are $19 million over the cap), and I think the chances are that player will be Simeon Rice. Rice has the second highest cap figure and has not been willing to renegotiate his contract before.
Derrick Brooks name has been brought up (since he has the highest cap figure) but he has expressed a willingness to renegotiate his contract so that he can retire as a Buc.
Why Is This Bad For The Players?: Less Available Money
It gets kind of complicated from here but the NFL created incentives in the current CBA to encourage both the owners and the union to renegotiate a new CBA. One of those are a package of provisions which reduce the amount of money a team can spend on its players this season.
As a result, there is less money available for free agents and rookies this offseason. And agents will try and find loopholes in the CBA to get the amount of money they would have received in a normal year.
How Can This Be Fixed?: Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue
Ok, technically "Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue" is not a good answer to a "How" question but you get the idea. The NFL needs somebody to step up and offer a solution that works for every party. That person should be Tagliabue who so far has benefited from running the most successful sports league, but now must prove he deserves the job.
Besides finding a solution for the owner's internal squabble, Tagliabue must find a way to get Upshaw back to the table. Upshaw has said that if the deadline was not met by today then the players union would not agree on a new CBA until after the uncapped 2007 season.
There is no easy solution to this quagmire, but I still think the owners and players will come to some kind of agreement in the next couple of weeks. All sides have too much to lose and too little to gain by not negotiating a new CBA.