OK. Judge Susie has ordered both sides of the CBA issue back to the table. It is already apparent that Judge Susie is tending to take a pro-players stance on many of the key issues. As fans, we have to hope that the new settlement doesn’t change the nature of the league we love too much.
I’m not a legal expert, nor a big-business expert, but I am very much afraid there are going to be some serious changes in the way the NFL does business coming out of this mediation process. I would not be at all surprised to see an end to the “Franchise” tag. I seriously doubt that teams will be able to protect their superstar players under any new agreement. Hopefully, the owners will at least get to keep some form of compensation for teams losing stars to free-agency. Closely tied to this is revenue sharing, and salary caps. Revenue sharing allows the small-market teams the opportunity to compete with the large-market teams on something resembling an equal footing. The salary cap (which I believe the players gave to the owners in a previous CBA settlement), in conjunction with revenue sharing, completes the leveling of the playing board. Without these two items, the “rogue” owners of the league (Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, and Al Davis) will all become George Steinbrenner wanna-bes, bidding on all star free-agent players. Just as in baseball, where many of the stars are merely “hired guns” (“Maan-eee”) who play the length of one contract for one team, and then re-enter the free-agency market again, to sign a fat contract with another team. It is worth noting that, I believe, there are compensatory draft picks awarded to teams losing a player (since I no longer follow baseball in any way, shape, or form, I’m not absolutely positive about this; if you know about this, post a reply, please). Unfortunately, in baseball, where talent is developed in a minor league system, amateur draft picks don’t become productive players for a minimum of three years. It is a sad fact, but there are major league baseball teams who most likely will never win a World Series, since they are not competing with the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the other large-market teams on a level playing field.
Whatever happens, I believe free-agency will be changed significantly. I’m positive the mediator will frown on stifling compensation for a team signing a free agent. No way will the price for signing a star free-agent be two #1 draft picks. If the league is smart, compensation to be paid by a team signing a star player will be set at no more than one first-round pick. However, the league could award “compensatory” picks at the end of the first round to teams losing a star player.
In a “worse-case” scenario, I could see an end to the draft completely. In any regard, I suspect the draft will be modified. Perhaps a college player who is drafted in the first round could have the option of signing a four year contract for, say $4.5 million/year, or signing a one year deal for $500K, and then re-entering the draft the following year. The same general idea could extend through all seven rounds. In any event, we need to pay attention to whatever comes out of the mediation process. Any settlement overly advantageous to the players could change the equilibrium of the league.