It’s official, the 2011 NFL season shall continue!
The NFL began reopening for business today after player leaders recommended approval of their new 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the league. Thank goodness we won’t deal with this again until 2021. What an unnecessary mess. The ratification recommendation, made during a meeting in Washington, came after representatives of the two sides ironed out the final details of the labor deal. In addition to the executive committee recommendation, the deal was unanimously approved by the player representatives from the 32 teams, according to the
NFL Players Association. The nearly five-month lockout of the players will end officially if the labor agreement is approved by a majority of the close to 2,000 players, which is virtually certain.
Unfortunately the Hall of Fame game on August 7th was canceled last week (Thursday) due to all of this crap. However, football will resume operations in stages, with some signings of players to begin by Tuesday and some teams opening training camps Wednesday. Rookies can begin signing with their teams Tuesday. Veteran free agents can negotiate with teams Tuesday but cannot sign contracts until Friday. The preseason will begin August 11th. The regular season will begin September 8th.
The owners voted, 31-0 with one abstention by the Oakland Raiders, Thursday in Atlanta to approve the collective bargaining agreement. The deal includes a salary cap system by which players will receive an average of at least 47 percent of the sport’s revenues, now about $9.3 billion annually and expected to rise sharply in future seasons, over the 10-year duration of the agreement. The salary cap is to be set at $120.4 million per team for the upcoming season, not counting $22 million per club in player benefits. There is a salary cap exception by which a team may borrow up to $3 million in cap space from a future season to sign players this season. There are new payroll minimums requiring the teams to collectively spend 99 percent of the salary cap in cash over the next two seasons, and 95 percent in subsequent seasons.
The requirement for a player with an expired contract to be eligible for unrestricted free agency is restored to four seasons of NFL experience, down from the six seasons required last year in a season without a salary cap. Teams can continue to use franchise-player tags and transition-player designations to restrict some players’ free agent mobility. A new rookie pay system curbs the amount of guaranteed money in rookies’ contracts and stipulates contract lengths. Rookies selected in the NFL draft are to sign four-year contracts, with fifth-season options for first-round draft choices. Undrafted rookies are to sign three-year deals.
The new collective bargaining agreement keeps the regular season at 16 games per team. The players had opposed the league’s previous proposal to increase the season to 18 games per club. The deal stipulates the players must agree to any future switch to a longer season. The agreement includes cutbacks in offseason workouts and reductions in hitting in practices during training camp and the season.