For nearly four months, football fans had to endure the ever-changing outlooks stemming from various media outlets regarding the status of the NFL Lockout situation. One hour one would hear that the two parties made significant progress, then the next minute, reports would surface that both sides stormed out of the negotiating sessions. Relax football fans everywhere, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. All indications have it that the Owners and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) have come to an agreement in principle. We can all exhale based on the fact that we will not miss any action on the field, including preseason games. But before we can get to that point, all hell is about to break loose!
All that both parties have to do now is cross the “Ts” and dot the “I’s”. They basically have come to terms with all issues that have divided them since the owners closed the doors to the facilities across the country back in March. The NFLPA accepted an 8-9% reduction in the piece of the pie that they would get as far as salaries are concerned and agreed to a rookie salary cap. The Owners dropped their ridiculous request to add two more regular season games to the schedule and reduced the number of years players would have to play in order to qualify for free agency. Both parties also agreed on a salary cap of $120 million as well as a $108 million dollar minimum that each team would be required to spend each season. The only thing that needs to be resolved is the class action law suit that a number of players filed after the NFLPA decertified itself a few months ago. However, I do not think that no one player wants to be looked upon as the individual that holds up the new collective bargaining agreement.
About three weeks after the Pro Bowl, free agency normally kicks in earnest. GMs and free agents go about their cat and mouse games, where teams try to woo players whom they feel can improve their team overnight. Well with the lockout, no such activity took place. Now that a new CBA appears to be imminent, teams will be forced to go on a world-wind frenzy to sign not only their own restricted free agents, but the other free agents that will be available including those who went undrafted.
There are over 400 free agents out there. Normally they would have been signed, sealed and delivered by now with camps opening up next week. However, due to the lockout, teams were not allowed to even speak with the player’s agents, not to mention the players themselves.
As soon as the CBA is approved by both parties, the NFLPA on July 20 and the owners hopefully on July 21, there is going to be a buyer’s market that will make a day at the Stock Exchange seem to be mundane. NFL teams, especially the GMs, will have to cram three months of work into a three-to-five day period just to have enough players to open training camp. This will be an especially difficult period for the local teams being that they have several key players who are eligible to test the free agency waters.
Giants GM Jerry Reese will be trying to resign RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Steve Smith, DE Mathias Kiwanuka as well as dealing with that ugly situation with Osi Umennyora. Umennyora is part of that class action suit where he claimed that Reese and the Giants reneged on a verbal agreement to restructure his contract in a manner that would make him one of the five highest paid players at that position.
The Jets on the other hand have three of their top wide receivers (Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith), DB Antonio Cromartie and their second best defensive player (David Harris) eligible to seek offers from other teams. There is no way the Jets can resign all three WRs so one of them is going to be told “thanks, there will be parting gifts at the door.” Edwards will most likely be the odd man out considering the versatility of Holmes and Smith. I’m really more concerned about Harris. He is a key cog in Rex Ryan’s defense and without him, the Jets will be in trouble.
Among the other eligible free agents, you have RBs Reggie Bush, Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson; WRs Sidney Rice, Vincent Jackson, and Randy Moss; DL Ray Edwards, Charles Johnson, Cullen Jenkins, Richard Seymour and Jason Babin and DBs Champ Bailey, Nmandi Asomugha and Rhonde Barber. This is just a partial list of the impact players that could walk from their existing teams within the next couple of weeks. Their current teams will have a three day exclusive negotiating period. After that they can speak with any team. Since neither the players nor teams will have a chance to fool around with negotiations, expect the contract offers to be out of this world with Asomugha offer probably leading the pack as the most sought after. However, I would love to see Ray Edwards in green and white next season.
The sad thing about this is that this deal could have been made two months ago. I guess it is like writing an essay in college. Most students do not get cracking on them until the due date approaches. Think about it. I find it strange that both parties did not engage in serious negotiations until the prospect of missing preseason became a reality. Just in the first week of exhibition games, the League could have lost over 250 million dollars if the lockout continued and that is just with preseason games.
When you think about it all we really missed was the offseason free agency signing period. You will still have your fantasy league gatherings and training camps will open as scheduled.
The big losers in this mess will be the undrafted free agents since they will be push to the back burner. The only real big winners in this fiasco were the lawyers who were able to bill the owners and the players more in the last four months than they tabulated in the past four years. The owners, players and even the fans will get their football. All gave up something but they also came away with more than they had this time last year in one way or the other. The product may not be what we have come to expect at first but eventually all parties involved will come up to speed.
Buckle up your seat belts, this upcoming free agency signing period is going to make the NFL GMs look like gamblers in Las Vegas playing with House Money. It is going to be a wild ride for a week and a half as the teams try to fill out their rosters.
Are you ready for some football?