“Me time” returns

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The nearly five month NFL lockout had some bright side for NFL front offices, allowing for no “me time” this offseason, as players and agents were not allowed contact with their teams. However, it did not stop players from ruminating upon their individual contracts – it wouldn’t be NFL training camp without some contract angst among the labor force. This year’s disgruntled bunch (hoping to become gruntled?) includes DeSean Jackson, Osi Umenyiora, Matt Forte, Cortland Finnegan and Chris Johnson.

These players – all under contract – feel they have outperformed their existing deals and the market has passed them by. For Jackson, Johnson and Forte, those deals are still their rookie contracts, an issue that was dealt with in the CBA — lowering the top deals without addressing the bargains that most rookie contracts, such as those of these three players, truly are.

At least we haven't yet heard (and we will): “It’s not about the money,” which, of course, means, “It’s all about the money.” Speaking of which…

The 30% stifle

Last season, the 30% rule – prohibiting clubs from paying a player more than 30% of his previous year’s salary – limited teams from extending young players. I explained the rule here using Johnson as an example. Teams hid behind the 30% rule and the surrounding labor uncertainty, leaving ascending players unable to capitalize on their performance.

The Titans opted for a quick-fix solution with Johnson, advancing about $1.5 million of future money to buttress his 2010 salary of $550,000. However, this temporary band-aid has fallen off.

New forfeitures

The penalties for veteran holdouts this season are $30,000 per day. Johnson is the only player now racking up these fines, although I sense these penalties will vanish when he is negotiates a new deal, which he will soon. In their recruiting pitch to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the Titans were clear that Johnson would not be missing any meaningful games.

Along with the increased fines, Owners negotiated Article IV

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