Do broadcast deals help owners?

Broadcast Deals Extended

In the midst of this economic downturn, the NFL has extended important broadcast deals with its partners for two more years. Set to expire following the 2011 season -- if there is a 2011 season -- the league’s deals with the following partners will run through the 2013 season: Fox, CBS, DirectTV and now NBC, as the NFL announced it has extended its six-year agreement with the network for two more seasons of Sunday Night Football. Reports indicate the extension has an increase of two percent over current levels.

Although the exact payment terms of these deals have not been released, the most important point in these extensions is the answer to the following question: Do payments to the NFL continue in the event there’s no football in 2011 because of a lockout of the players by ownership?

Although the answer to that question is unclear regarding the network deals, a source with knowledge of them confirms that, at the least, the DirecTV deal does include payments as scheduled in 2011, with or without football.

Thus, if the lockout scenario were to take place and there were no football revenues to be shared with the players in 2011, ownership would still have a revenue source coming in even without the games. Of course, we’re a long way from that time, but the discussion will continue to ramp up over the coming months.

Just the Facts, Plax

Plaxico Burress finally faced reality, perhaps for the first time in his life. An enormous talent that was rewarded at this time a year ago with a large contract extension with the Giants, Burress has been around yes-men and enablers his entire life. As it usually is with people who have no reality in their lives, his crew has always told him what he wanted to hear rather than what he needed to hear.

Somehow, some way, someone got to Burress. Notorious for his continued self-delusional behavior, he decided to not con himself any longer and accepted a two-year prison term. In the past six months, Burress had turned down deals from both the Giants and the prosecutors. He probably wishes he took both as he now faces the harsh truth.

Venus, Serena Swim In

Stephen Ross continues to leverage celebrity in his nascent ownership of the Dolphins. First, it was Jimmy Buffett and his Land Shark Lager branding opportunity. Then Ross brought in Emilio and Gloria Estefan as minority owners, followed by Marc Anthony (and his wife Jennifer Lopez). Now, two of the most marketable and well-known female athletes in the world, Venus and Serena Williams, have joined the gathering, reportedly the latest in the group of renowned minority investors of the team. I would expect that Venus and Serena would use this investment as a cross-promotion opportunity for their other brands in tennis, fashion and design.

Ross has made his intentions clear in trying to find that elusive concept of “buzz” in a marketplace crowded with options. Kudos for having the gumption to try and give the Dolphins the cachet of a Lakers game in the NBA, with equal parts watching the game and gazing at the stars.

Treasure to Trash

There have been a couple of recent examples of one of my favorite mantras about free agency in the NFL: A team’s treasure can become – sooner than you’d think – its trash.

Jason David was a the recipient of a generous offer sheet from the Saints two years ago, which he signed on April 30, 2007. David leveraged his Super Bowl-champion performance into a strong contract with the Saints at top-level cornerback proportions.

Two seasons later, David is gone, replaced by shinier new parts of the Saints such as free agent Jabari Greer and first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins. David went from a big free agent signing to termination in two years.

And, in a much shorter time frame, a couple of players intertwined with the Raiders were signed by their teams in the spring to only be released in the summer. I worked on a small deal with former Raiders safety Rashad Baker with the Eagles in March – complete with a Capitol Grille dinner with Baker and his two agents – and heard the story of how he put the Eagles in the playoffs last season by intercepting a pass for the Raiders to seal a win against the Buccaneers. Baker’s upfront amount was nominal -- $25,000 -- but he was released this week by the Eagles.

Baker was signed back by the Raiders (he probably shouldn’t have left), causing a ripple effect in which Oakland released venerable fullback Lorenzo Neal, who was signed on May 8 for a minimum-salary benefit contract (a contract paying Neal his 10-year minimum but only counting as a two-year minimum against the salary cap).

Between Baker and Neal, the total amount of at-risk dollars for the teams was $25,000, and the teams are no worse for having signed them. It just shows how things change in the perception of players, sometimes within a few months.

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