The so-called cycle comes and goes in life, business, and in the perception of things being up or down. The 2014 NFL free agency period has returned with the vigor and zest that was intended two years ago after the NFLPA (Players Association) was beaten down by the 32 NFL owners and Roger Goodell in the mandated lockout. The union gained concessions on the field and in the workplace.
That was important for the 1,700 union employees better known as the players. The owners, led by Goodell, got their number-one objective, and that was to slash the rookie wage scale by 50 percent. That was a huge win for the owners.
In simple terms, now first-round draft choices get 50 percent less guaranteed money coming in on four-year contracts. It’s pro-rated by each round from the second to the seventh.
The owners felt that controlling the guaranteed money of unproven rookies would give them the leverage on contracts with veteran proven NFL players on second and third contracts. Last year in free agency, that is what happened.
Movement for veterans was way off; there were many casualties. Teams always will have the advantage on roster decisions because they decide if it’s better to keep a younger player over a veteran and because most contracts are not guaranteed.
Last year, 2013, the salary cap was $123 million per team; in 2014, it’s up to a whopping $133 million per team for 32 teams. That’s $320 million released by the union that the 32 teams have to spend. It’s TV money from the NFL Network Partners, and it’s going to continue to rise because the next new deal comes in 2015. That’s great news for the players, for the fans, and for the owners —everybody should be happy.
Many players are now finding better opportunities with other teams or staying with their current teams and benefiting financially with guaranteed contracts, and the money is terrific. Already a half a billion dollars has been paid to players this month alone.
To measure whether or not the NFLPA is doing a great job for the players is not always about money. I believe this union cares more about players’ safety than in the days of the late great Gene Upshaw. That is not to be critical; it’s saying that the game has totally changed. The owners and commissioner and the NFLPA are fully aware now of the major risk and dangers associated with this great, violent game we love.
Union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and George Atallah and the NFLPA leadership is up for reelection this fall. Just like politics, the players have to vote and make their choices to retain or not keep this administration.
The NFLPA release of the greatest sum of the financial agreement from the last lockout deal now for the 2014 salary cap from one year to next was a great strategic decision because this is how the system is supposed to work for the veterans, because they have the most to lose and because they have the most invested.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com