NEW YORK — Rich, powerful and more popular than ever, the NFL gets closer to a doomsday scenario every day.
Without a deal in the next five weeks to preserve the labor peace that has lasted since a bad month in 1987 – anybody remember scab football? – next season will have no salary cap. That means richer teams such as the Redskins and Patriots will be able to far outspend clubs such as Jacksonville and Buffalo for free agents, while the Jaguars and Bills might try to pinch pennies to stay in business.
And if no deal can be reached next season, that uncapped, maybe less competitive year will be followed by no NFL at all in 2011. Stay tuned as the nation’s most lucrative and most watched sport heads into the Great Unknown.
“It looks very bleak to get a (deal) done before March of this year or the beginning of the new NFL season,” says Titans center Kevin Mawae, president of the players’ union.
“We’re going to continue to try. … Until we come to some terms of what’s really important and what are the big issues in this deal it’s going to be tough to get something done.
“The players are more united than ever before, and we’re preparing for a lockout.”
And getting antsy about the future.
“From our standpoint right now, you not only prepare for the worst, that seems like the direction it’s headed,” Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch says. “If players aren’t prepared, if guys are in bad financial situations, it hurts our leverage as players.”
The main issue, of course, is money – despite soaring TV ratings, an average franchise value of $1 billion and even a storybook Super Bowl featuring the hard-luck Saints and MVP Peyton Manning’s Colts.
The NFL owners in 2008 opted out of their contract – called the collective bargaining agreement, or CBA – and have asked for significant givebacks from the players, including a reduction in salaries of nearly 20 percent.