There’s a palpable buzz surrounding some events that come around only once every few years, and when the hype machine stops churning and the confetti has settled, there’s almost a sense of lingering depression. Nearly one year ago this feeling set in when the World Cup ended, and a month of rejoicing in the beautiful game was suddenly over. Same goes for the summer or winter Olympics every two years.
That same buzz surrounded the beginning of the NFL lockout, but the depression upon its conclusion will certainly be absent. It’s relieving to see ESPN’s Adam Schefter report that once the new CBA is finalized it will remain in place for the next 7-10 years, meaning Lockout Watch won’t return until at least 2018 (I know, we’ll miss Fantana and Burgundy too).
While that’s encouraging, the inevitable arrival of more news from Debbie Downer isn’t, although like Domonique Foxworth’s Debbie Downer impersonation that we saw this morning, Albert Breer’s bucket of cold water was actually quite mild.
As if feeling the need to calm the frenzy, Breer tucked a tweet explaining that there are “still plenty of other hoops” for the two sides to jump through (including establishing the specifics of the Legacy Fund for retired players and addressing player safety), between two other tweets describing his latest report that pretty has me ripping articles of clothing off and preparing to run around naked.
In that report Breer says that following the rookie wage scale agreement, the economics of the CBA are “essentially done.” If you’re the type who needs odds to plan your day and weekend around an NFL agreement (*sheepishly raises hand*), Breer provided those too.
One source estimated that if full closure on rookie compensation was reached Thursday, there was “a 50-50 chance” the parties could have a handshake deal in place to present to U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, who’s on vacation this week, at their scheduled mediation in Minneapolis on Tuesday, two days before the owners’ meeting in Atlanta.
Last night’s major breakthrough in the rookie wage scale debate jump started the negotiations and began this final push. Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post explained what the owners conceded in those discussions, and how the two sides came to an agreement.
First round picks will now sign four-year deals with an option for a fifth year, and those deals can’t be re-negotiation until after the third year. The major obstacle in negotiations became that fifth option year and its financial structure.
The majority of the disagreement concerned the fifth-year compensation for first-round picks. Owners wanted the fifth year-option set at a prefixed number. Players wanted the option to be set at the time of going into that fifth year, at a high “veteran rate,” an average of the top veteran players at the same position.
Compromise was reached. For the top 10 picks in the Draft, Owners reportedly agreed to fifth-year options at an average of the top ten veteran salaries at a player’s respective position. Players selected 11-32 would be paid an average of the top three to twenty-five salaries at a player’s respective position.
The fifth year of the rookie contract is the most important year for players who want to capitalize on their value, and minimize the chances of that value dramatically decreasing with a major injury. That year is also important for players who aren’t among the elite but have still hung around beyond the average NFL career of 3.5 years.
This agreement then provides a solution that’s workable for both sides. The owners don’t have to pay the Sam Bradfords of the draft $50 million in guarantee money before they take a single NFL snap, and the players are still able to earn a salary that’s equal or close to the paychecks of their veteran peers during the prime of their careers. In fact, Schefter reports that the value of first round rookie contracts will decrease by 40-50 percent.
So sorry Cam Newton and Von Miller, you’ll only be able to afford one Bentley.