As Labor Talks Continue, Both Sides Focused on Rookie Contracts

As the owners and players walked into a Manhattan building last Thursday, ready to kick off two days of negotiations, the mood was optimistic and positive.

But after a deal was once again unable to be reached, the feeling around the league is that the August 7th pre-season Hall of Fame Game is now in serious jeopardy.

Danny Watkins financial future is up in the air this week in negotiations

With hopes of saving the pre-season in full, the two sides will once again kick off another week of negotiations today. Just like last week, the talks will begin with only the lawyers from each side meeting face to face, with the big names expected to come in later on.

While most of the talk surrounding the labor negotiations has focused on the overall spilt of revenue, Albert Breer of NFL Network says that the issue of rookie wage scales was actually the reason behind the stalemate on Friday. According to Breer, the NFL owners and players both agree the system needs to be fixed, but how they want it fixed (naturally) is where the disagreement falls.

The NFL wants to see a dramatic decrease in the overall value of the contract. The two sides reportedly agree on how deals can be structured for players selected in rounds 2-7 (surprisingly, the contract value of Mr. Irrelevant is not holding up the deal.) It is the contracts of the players in the first round, specifically in the top 8, that is causing a hold up in the negotiations according to Breer.

Breer uses former number one pick Sam Bradford as an example. When Bradford was selected first overall by the St Louis Rams, he received a 6 year deal with over 50 million in guarantees. Under the new system, the total value of his contract would fall around 34 million for 5 years.

The NFLPA disagreement with this system does not fall under the monetary value of the contract, but the length. If rookies coming in are going to be paid less, then the union wants to see them hit free agency quicker, so they can profit from a new deal. It appears as if the players want deals to max out at 4 years if the incoming rookies are going to take such pay cuts. The league would prefer to see deals be allowed up to 5 years. The players have a deal on the table that would allow a 5th year to happen, but with a significant pay increase. Breer also reports, along with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, that the issue among the players is more about what the compensation for the fifth year would be, not about adding it on.

One interesting note is a clause that the two sides reportedly agree on, which would prevent rookies from renegotiating their contracts in the first 3 years of the deal. This could effect the Eagles and Joe Banner, as the love to wrap up their talented players early on at a bargain price.

While it is good to see the union fighting for it’s incoming workers, its not hard to imagine some current NFL players having a problem with this. Perhaps more then any other sport, each pay check cashed by the players in the NFL should be cherished. The majority of players in the NFL only get big money for a few years. I know current players will not be happy with missing game checks over a disagreement about incoming rookies salaries.

It’s unlikely that the rookie contract details will hold up the negotiations much longer, given that they are only one year apart, but as a reported self-imposed deadline of July 15th amongst the two sides grows closer and closer, each minute grows in importance. The sooner they can get past this issue, they can move to another- making a deal even closer.

Other then the rookie deals, the two sides (reportedly) have yet to come together on a deal for how the overall revenue would be spilt, so their is still a lot of work to be done.

But as both sides are reminded of daily: time is ticking away.

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