Andrew's answers: Tuesday's mailbag

Since my first primer on the CBA negotiationsPart Two is tomorrow – questions have poured in about a potential lockout and strategies by the two sides. But first a couple questions about the firing in Denver yesterday and the presumed highest-paid-player to be in the NFL.

What did you think of the firing of Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and will the Broncos have to pay him? --Charlie M.

I'm a bit surprised due to having only four games left in the season, but Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen decided he had seen enough after a loss and the stain of the Spygate II incident in London, despite earlier statements that McDaniel would last the season.

McDaniels appeared to have little tolerance for players that weren’t buying what he was selling. Players such as Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler were shipped out after it was clear they weren’t falling in line with McDaniels' rigid ways.

I thought the Broncos were shrewd with player moves this offseason, extending players such as Elvis Dumervil, Kyle Orton and Chris Kuper with no money down in 2010. They have one of the league’s lowest player payrolls, yet one of the league’s highest coaching payrolls, now owing Mike Shanahan, McDaniels in addition to the new hire in 2011.

The Broncos will try to avoid the remaining obligation by claiming McDaniels’ termination – his contract, not him – was “for cause”, using the Spygate incident as cause for nonpayment. Their ultimate strategy behind those efforts may be to initiate a settlement of a far lesser amount than the $7 million now due to McDaniels.

On a personal note, I was hoping that the interim coach would be secondary coach Ed Donatell, someone I worked with and admired in Green Bay: solid man with great integrity and a skilled coach.

Do you think Peyton Manning’s problems are at all related to his contract situation? --Wes T.

The contract should not be a distraction to him, as Manning and agent Tom Condon cut off negotiations in October until after the season. However, every player feels more comfortable with his contract resolved. Manning and Condon are privately frustrated that the Colts dragged their heels on his negotiation for a year, taking shelter in the uncertainty of the labor situation, while players such as Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb completed extensions.

Colts owner Jim Irsay has been on record saying Manning will be the highest-paid player in the NFL. The margin by which he exceeds the rest of the market, however, may be bit less than it would have been if the season continues as it has recently.

What do you think of the NFL Players Association advising players to save their money in preparation for a potential lockout by the NFL in 2011? --Bill G.

This is part of Lockout Preparation 101 from the union. The constant advice to save money allows the NFLPA cover against accusations from players about adequate warning and preparation.

The NFLPA has also been advising a select group of player agents – a group that represents over half the players in the league – to encourage saving. As a former agent, I know that curbing spending is a hard discussion. At some point, if an agent gets too restrictive about what a player can spend, he will be that player’s former agent.

Players also need to be mindful of the environment about public displays of spending. Dez Bryant’s $55,000 dinner tab in September doesn’t help things.

What will happen with the 2011 NFL Draft if there is a work stoppage? --Karl B.

There will be a 2011 Draft even in the event of a work stoppage. The expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) requires it.

How will rookies be paid if there’s no CBA? --Jesse R.

Negotiations will be put on an indefinite hold until the clubs know what the system is when the CBA is finalized. Thus, rookies will be drafted yet not signed.

Will fewer underclassmen come out this year due to the potential work stoppage? --Kelly S.

I don’t see why that would happen. There was a lot of talk over the past two Drafts that more underclassmen would come out due to the labor situation being in flux but statistics proved the number of players coming out early was virtually the same as before. And I think that will prove the same this year.

Players will make decisions based on their personal situations and reports of their Draft value. A potential lockout is far from their minds.

Will rookies get paid less with the new CBA? --Bill R.

Yes, certainly at the top of the Draft. Sam Bradford was the last bonus baby in the history of top picks in the NFL. Bradford can max out at about $78 million. The next top draft pick in the NFL will probably max out at about $20-25 million.

With no voice behind them except for a handful of top agents, the rookies will be served up for slaughter. Management feels they make too much; veteran players feel they make too much; even union officials feel they make too much.

The more interesting question will be how a new rookie compensation system affects lower-round picks. Right now, these players represent a reasonable and fixed cost for a good portion of club rosters. The NFL should be careful what it wishes for here.

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