Yesterday we led one of these posts with a splendid analogy from George Atallah, the spokesman for the organization formerly known as the NFLPA. He made us think about running, and cleverly compared the final steps in the resolution of the lockout to a marathon.
Today our friend George wasn’t in such a pleasant, witty mood. He’s pointed an accusing finger at those rumor witches in the media, and told players that on this day–the most important day in the lockout until tomorrow–they shouldn’t believe the reports they’re hearing/reading. Instead, they should proceed with skepticism, and perhaps hide indoors.
That process means something entirely different for the big wheels among the players, and specifically Logan Mankins, Vincent Jackson, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees, players who were given pocket aces to use in negotiations whenever they wished. As four of the 10 plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL antitrust suit, they hold leverage over their next paycheck. Three were given the franchise tag, and Brees can be slapped with the same income restricting designation next year.
Wanting their pay day now either in the form of cold, hard cash, or unrestricted free agency once the market is finally opened, Mankins and Jackson are asking to be either paid $10 million as part of the antitrust settlement, or be unleashed from their franchise tag shackles. This power move was made by their agents, and was first reported by Yahoo’s Jason Cole late last night.
The motivation for Mankins and Jackson to fight the man extends beyond the obvious cash grab and financial security going forward. Both players feel screwed by a system that offered them only restricted free agency prior to 2010, an uncapped year which delayed their pay day because unrestricted free agency was push back and applied to six-year players. In protest they sat out a combined 20 games (12 for Jackson, and eight for Mankins), leading to a contentious relationship with their teams.
Another power move was made by Brees and Manning. Citing a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe reported that Brees and Manning are making a different request. They’re asking to be exempt from the franchise tag for the rest of their careers. Bedard’s report was later supported by the NFL Network’s Albert Breer.
Translation: pay us, and pay us a lot of money now. Manning would immediately be an unrestricted free agent, and although the chances of him leaving Indianapolis would still be extremely slim, his new-found free agent status would force the Colts to pay far more than the widely reported $25-30 million offer they’re preparing. Meanwhile, Brees would become a UFA after this season, also forcing the Saints to sign him to a lucrative extension.
This kind of last minute grab is not unique during the final days of NFL labor negotiations, with a similar lunge for cash taking place among the plaintiffs during the 1993 antitrust suit. In those proceedings all the named plaintiffs were exempt from the franchise tag.
The league is mulling over its decision, a process that has the potential to stall the labor negotiations that were heading towards a triumphant finish on Thursday. And we’ll still maybe, probably get there, but it could require sucking it up and forking over some cash to Mankins and Jackson, and caving to Manning and Brees.