In what continues to be a saga filled with more twists and turns than a daytime soap opera, the NFL’s current collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL Players Association took a step in the right direction today, although it may have been a relatively small one in the grand scheme of things.

"Hey, must be the money!"

Both sides have reportedly agreed to a restructuring of rookie salaries.  So far, apparently, details of this agreement have not been released, but it looks to be potentially drastic.  According to Yahoo Sports, “the league’s first proposal called for the top pick in the draft to get a maximum five-year, $19 million deal. Only $6 million of that would have been guaranteed. The deal would have included no bonuses for play time or achievement, such as making the Pro Bowl.”  Compare that to Sam Bradford’s contract as the 2010 first overall pick:  5 years, $72 million, with $50 million guaranteed.  Now that’s a payday.  Not surprisingly, this initial offer by the owners was nixed by the union.

This is an aspect of the negotiations where I, in my limited to nonexistent knowledge of this whole process, would expect both sides to be (basically) on the same page.  To wit, it is clear the rookie salaries were out of control.  Now the players’ union is obviously going to fight for everything it can get for players, but in this case, what’s best for the rookies is not what’s best for the whole group.  Maintaining a high pay scale for rookies doesn’t benefit veterans in any way; in fact, it takes away from a pool of money that could be going to them.  Moreover, the owners don’t want to pay rookies any more than they have to, which is quite obvious when you look at the NFL’s initial offer to cut the salaries down to size.

Another interesting development is the struggle over just how big this pot of gold that must be divvied up will end up being.  The NFL is a $9 billion a year business, but not all of this gets split.  Under the old CBA, $1 billion of this was knocked off the top before the rest was to be shared.  The top, of course, went to the owners.  Now they want more to be taken off the top…$1 billion more.  That was the initial offer, which didn’t fly with the players.  It has been lowered, but nothing has been agreed on yet.  Also, the leader of the union is saying the NFL has not provided enough of the pertinent financial information necessary for meaningful negotiations to be made.  Included in this is the desire to increase the season from 16 to 18 games, which affects the amount of money the players (rightly, IMO) feel they deserve.

So, while nothing earthshaking has happened yet, some baby steps have been taken, which is at least encouraging.  These discussions have a lot of factors at play, and neither side wants to give up what it feels it can get.  Such is the nature of business, and when it’s all said and done, that’s all the NFL is.  It’s not about having fun or entertaining people.  It’s about money, and a lot of it.  Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead in this process.  For now, they only have until Friday to get it done, unless another extension is put into place.  The chances of that happening can’t be good, so I imagine we’ll see another extension announced in the next couple of days.

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