After receiving many questions about the collective bargaining negotiations, Albert Haynesworth and the reduced offers to restricted free agents (RFAs) earlier this week, here’s a mailbag with your questions and hopefully answers:
What do you think of this talk about an extended season in the latest collective bargaining session?
I think this changes the game and gives hope for a new agreement. Here’s why: the owners have asked for a rollback of – depending on whom you believe – anywhere from nine to eighteen percent from the current CBA. Playing a couple of extra games, if accepted by the NFLPA, could be a tradeoff to the owners to bring the shared-revenue equation back to at or near where it is today.
In other words, say the owners agree to not ask for any reduction in the share of revenues that the players receiving. In return, the union would agree to playing the extra two games. There will be posturing for now, with players like Tom Brady and Ray Lewis trotted out to explaing the physical strain of playing more games, but money has a way of soothing those aches. Sources on both sides of the bargaining table tell me this issue could be the one that breaks the thaw in negotiations.
What do you think of the NFL having Mark Murphy of the Packers – a team you know well -- speak on the issue?
It was strategic in two ways :(1) Murphy is a former player and can show empathy with current players, and (2) Murphy is CEO of the Packers, the only team in the league to share its financials with the public (and the union). The Packers annual report will be coming out this week and my sense is it will show lower profits than in recent years, supporting the owners' arguments for a new system.
What is going on with Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins?
Just as JaMarcus Russell has become the poster child as to what is wrong with the rookie compensation system, Albert Haynesworth is fast becoming the poster child for what is wrong with splashy free agenct signings in football. The Redskins got caught up in the chase last year and signed Haynesworth to a stunning contract, with $41 million guaranteed and $48 million in the first four years. They have already paid him $32 million and now have switched defensive schemes, much to his dismay.
Would the Redskins trade him after giving him all that money?
I would not. It would compound the mistake of giving him $32 million only to have another team reap any benefit of his services. The contract – with only $9 million remaining on the guarantee -- is quite reasonable for an acquiring team. I know he may be a locker room problem, but a lot of that is jealousy as to how much money he made.
Is there a scenario in which it would make sense to trade Haynesworth?
There are two: (1) he returns some of the $32 million he has received. Having received a $21 million check in March, one would hope he hasn’t spent it all, or (2) the Redskins make the acquiring team take on another bad contract – Clinton Portis and his $6 million guaranteed is the obvious choice – to make it happen.
Do the Redskins have any chance of recovering money from Haynesworth?
It will be a challenge, as the time for that would have been before they handed him $21 million in March. They may be trying the same theory the Raiders are using to recover money from Russell: that when the contract was adjusted with a superseding bonus – as both Russell’s and Haynesworth’s were –the full guarantee did not accompany the restructure. The NFL Management Council is advising both the Raiders and Redskins in their attempts to salvage these disastrous contracts.
What happens now to the unsigned RFA players?
Players like Marcus McNeill, Vincent Jackson, Logan Mankins and Atari Bigby are just that, unsigned players without contracts. Until they are executed – the contract, not the player – the players have no obligation to report for team activities: minicamps, workouts, training camp, even the season. They cannot be fined for their absences, similar to unsigned Franchise players of the past such as Assante Samuel (New England) and Walter Jones (Seattle) that would just show up right before the season and sign their one-year tender.
How long can they go without signing?
Theoretically, forever. However, if they do not report by August 10 they will not receive a free agency credit and if they remain unsigned as of Week 10 of the 2010 NFL season, they cannot play for the rest of the year.
And what would happen next year?
Depending on the CBA negotiations, they would either be RFAs again subject to the control of their team or Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) free to negotiate with any team.
Can a team and a player negotiate a different one-year amount than the tender?
Yes. That has been raised as a solution by a couple of the unsigned players – McNeill of the Chargers for one -- and declined by the team.
What about your column on Collusion?
Coming Monday (I hope).
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