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Archive for the ‘ CBA ’ Category

Judge: I’m Not Sure Goodell Understands There Is A CBA

The public mockery of the ineptness of the commissioner of the National Football League continued today – this time via a scathing comment from a United States federal judge.

Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson was, after being placed on double-secret probation for all but one game last season, ultimately suspended by Führer Goodell for the final six games of the year. The issue with that unpaid suspension was that it was retroactively enforced. The off-field incident took place many months prior to Goodell’s announcement that the personal conduct policy was being revamped, and such incidents would now result in a six-game suspension rather than two games. (This of course occurred after the Kommissar was excoriated in the court of public opinion after appearing to have lied about not seeing the Ray Rice knockout punch; i.e., business as usual for those collecting a paycheck at 345 Park Avenue.)

Back to today’s news… back in February Judge David Doty ordered that the Peterson suspension be sent back to arbitration. The league dragged its feet and the after NFL Players Association had seen enough – and rightfully so – filed a contempt of court motion in May. Considering the hubris of Goodell and the NFL league offices, it is no surprise that here we are six months later and still no attempt at the court-ordered arbitration. NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler put on his Captain Obvious face and said the league has been stalling.

Judge Doty questioned NFL lawyer Dan Nash in regards to why the NFL was so hesitant to arbitrate. Doty quoted previous public comments by Goodell relative to his authority under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, and then hit Nash and the absent commissioner with a knee-buckling body blow.

“I’m not sure the commissioner understands there is a CBA.”

Ouch.

Despite that statement that should have been a wake up call to Nash, the chutzpah continued. He had the gall to say that the NFL had not violated the judge’s order and that the league was shocked by the filing of the contempt motion. The arrogance continued when Nash claimed that “we had every reason to believe there was no dispute”.

Huh?


I don’t believe this will affect the Tom Brady case at all. However, it is worth noting that a Unites States federal judge is openly questioning if the commissioner of a multi-billion dollar business does not understand what powers he does and does not have, per a collectively bargained agreement. No wonder he needed someone else (Robert Kraft) to take over negotiations and reach an accord! And through all of this the person who does not understand the CBA has the gall to cite the very same agreement, in terms of what he can do? It makes me wonder if Goodell even read the Wells report, rather than just the summary.

Goodell and the NFL keep saying ‘Article 46’, but there is much, much more to the CBA. Among other things he must draw his decisions “from the essence of the CBA” and cannot ignore the “law of the shop”. There is no penalty for ‘failure to cooperate’, and the league is ‘required to provide proper notice’.

The concept that Goodell can do anything he wants based on Article 46 is ludicrous, no matter how many times fans and media members repeat the league office’s lies.

Roger Goodell and the NFL’s Arrogance of Power

When the initial news of under inflated footballs broke last January, I will admit that as a fan of the Patriots I was very concerned. Based on the only information available at that time, it certainly looked as if there was foul play involved. In the seven months since then it has become very apparent that it is not only ‘more probable than not’ that the Patriots were not guilty of any nefarious actions, but it was the NFL itself that is culpable for conspiring to deceive the public.

That leads to the question: why?

Since it became obvious that the only scheme in this whole sordid affair originated from the offices at 345 Park Avenue, I kept thinking that this was all about deflecting attention away from other issues. The NFL was being hit hard from multiple sides, and constant battering was taking its toll. Concussion lawsuits, Ray Rice and domestic violence, Adrian Peterson beating his four-year old with a switch – and another domestic abuse case (Greg Hardy) was still looming. Avert the bright lights of those cases with a fall guy. History showed that the public ate up everything – regardless of how untrue many of the reports were proven to be – for ten months when the Patriots filmed from an unauthorized area. Since they were still portrayed as the evil villain, why not go to the well once more?

Although that rationale is quite plausible, I am now inclined to fully consider that there is much more to this sham. Michael C. Horowitz of the Washington Post postulates that the negative press towards Goodell due to the Rice, Peterson and Hardy incidents – as well as the ongoing concussion revelations – placed the commissioner in a precarious position. Many openly wondered if he could continue in his position, and if he should be replaced. Horowitz astutely compares Goodell to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Robert Kraft was becoming a powerful figure in the NFL while Goodell was losing his influence; this set-up put Kraft on the defensive and took away some of his credibility. Rather than forming an alliance to oust Goodell, now owners were picking sides against one another.

One other extremely relevant topic that Horowitz points out is the unholy alliance between the NFL and ESPN. The world wide leader has been a mouthpiece of the NFL’s from day one – from leaking the initial lie about football being more than two PSI below the minimum level, to never retracting that story, to their legal analyst giving outlandishly one-sided reports, and more. For the vast majority of NFL fans, they get almost all their information about the league from BSPN, with most of the remainder coming from the league-owned NFL Network. By controlling the information, Goodell controlled what most of the public thought about the incident. The boys at Park Avenue make the cold-war era Pravda appear to be moderately balanced in comparison.

Former NFL linebacker Dave Meggyesy sums it up well when he states that “Roger is a bumbler”.

“They’re in a box, and they’re the (expletive) league,” Meggyesy said with a chuckle. “They’re not going to back down. That kind of arrogance — where they’ll say, ‘We lost, but we didn’t lose’ — that’s the arrogance of power. They lose in court over and over and over, but to them, no, they never lose, and they’re not going to lose now.”

Did the lockout derail a contract extension for Wes Welker?

We are fast approaching the deadline for when players who had the franchise tag applied to them to be able to sign a contract extension with their current team. After Monday July 16, players who were franchised can only sign a one-year contract with their club, and their contract cannot be extended until after their final game of the regular season.

 


July 16 is the deadline for the Pats to work out a long term deal with Wes Welker

 

From what I have read it is my understanding that Wes Welker said that he absolutely did not want any contract negotiations to be going on once the 2011 season began. Because of the lockout that left two very small windows of time to get a deal done: (a) from the time between the playoff loss to the Jets in January of 2011 to the start of the lockout, and (b) from the end of the lockout to the first game of the 2011 season.

 

In the first window there was the uncertainty of not knowing what the upcoming cap would be, and for that matter not even knowing whether or not there would even be a 2011 football season. In the second window teams had to sign free agents, sign drafted rookies, sign undrafted free agents, and for guys that were both general managers and head coaches like Bill Belichick, also conduct training camp. Before you know it it is time to make roster cuts, and now there are just a few days to the start of the regular season. Boom, the window for contract negotiations with Welker has suddenly closed.

 

Perhaps the Pats should have pushed harder to have those negotiations re-opened during the season. Perhaps Welker should have been less adamant about not having negotiations take place during the season, given the circumstances.

 

Normally I would completely agree with Welker in his desire to avoid the possibility of contract negotiations becoming a possible distraction during the season.  In retrospect however, I think he and his agent should have reconsidered this decision given the very unique circumstances that the lockout had on working out a contract extension that would have been acceptable to both parties. Their hard stance on the topic may have resulted in their painting themselves into a corner in regards to getting a long term deal done, and the peace of mind from the added financial security that it would have provided.

 

As far as avoiding distractions once the season kicks off goes, how many times do you think Welker will be asked about his future this season if a new deal is not worked out during this week?

 

 

 

 

 

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Time for a change in draft philosophy?

Since Bill Belichick arrived in New England he has been steadfast in his philosophy about value in the draft. Because of that belief he is far more likely to trade down and acquire an additional draft pick, especially in the early rounds, than he is to trade up to go after a highly rated prospect. It’s not that it never happens (e.g., Vince Wilfork), but history has shown that he is more likely to either trade down, or turn it into an earlier pick in the following draft than he is to move up.

 

This strategy has been very frustrating for fans who anxiously see some name player passed by and their favorite prospect go to another team, but the success of the team in the early part of the last decade kept any grumbling quiet; it was difficult to argue with that success. Free agency, a hard salary cap and the annual draft in inverse order of the previous year’s record resulted in the NFL getting it’s wish for parity: a league where fan interest would remain high everywhere as no team would remain bad for long, even if it was at the expense of any franchise remaining on top for an extended time.

 

Owner Robert Kraft wanted to put together a team that could be competitive year in and year out, but how would that ever be possible in that climate? Bill Belichick’s idea was that by spreading talent throughout the roster he could build a winning team. The idea flew in the face of conventional wisdom where a higher percentage of money was to be spent at the top of the roster. Utilizing his idea of assigning more value to mid-tier players (and their contracts), the Pats not only became very competitive, they were able to keep on winning for an extended period of time.

 

As time passed the NFL salary cap grew by 247% from 1994 to 2011. Teams no longer went in to cap hell. Veterans with big contracts were still being cut, but usually it had more to do with their performance than their salary. And as the years went by more and more teams became savvy about the cap and made better financial decisions regarding big contracts. The rest of the league was catching up to the fiscally responsible teams like the Patriots, Steelers and Colts.

 

As we all know the owners opted out of the CBA and went to an uncapped year. Most thought that those teams that spent a lot of money in the uncapped year (like the Packers and  Jets) would be hurt the following year when the cap returned. However, even though the cap was scaled back, the wording of the new CBA was such that contracts were written pushing a decent amount of money into future years – when new network contract will kick in and those new caps will dramatically increase.

 

Another aspect was that rookie contracts were scaled back in the new CBA. This had two effects; first off proportionally more money is available for veterans. Second, and perhaps more importantly, having an early draft pick is no longer an albatross around your neck to be avoided. In previous years bad teams were stuck having a high percentage of their cap tied up on those rookie contracts, and if one didn’t work out it would set them back for several years; now however that is no longer the case.

 

With the cap no longer being as restrictive as it was ten or more years ago, and with contracts to rookies taken in the top half of the first round no longer being a bad risk, is it time for Belichick and the Patriots to rethink their economic strategies to building a longtime winning organization?

 

Prior to the new CBA I was a staunch defender of Belichick’s draft and team building philosophy, in large part because I believed that the new CBA would be far more restrictive to teams in regards to the salary cap. But since that has not been the case, the old model is if not obsolete, at the very least questionable. I still believe that since the draft is something of a crapshoot – even the best drafting teams have a large percentage of misses with picks taken in the early rounds – so I’m not ready to completely discard the concept of acquiring extra draft picks. However, it seems very apparent that early draft picks – particularly picks in the first round – now represent a much higher value for teams than they did in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

 

Now the question is whether or not Belichick can embrace this change in philosophy. Some are quick to portray him as stubborn, but Belichick has been anything but that throughout his career. He has a long history of going against conventional wisdom and thinking outside the box, whether it be listening to statistic experts on the probabilities of a two-point conversion, going for it on 4th down, using a linebacker at tight end, or many other ideas. Belichick adapted as rule changes caused the game to evolve offensively seven years ago; I am confident he can and will adapt next off season as well.

 

 

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Earlier this week I attempted to quantify how well – or not so well – the Patriots have drafted over the last several years. That apparently struck a nerve with many, so I want to clarify a few points.

First of all I never said the Patriots are the best team in the NFL at the draft – it should be quite obvious that they are not.

I never said the 2011 Patriots defense is good; that too should be quite obvious that they are not.

And I never said that the Steelers have not drafted well. I used them as an example of comparison because they are the team, more than any other NFL franchise, that people use as a comparison when it comes to drafting. The reason is because right now they are arguably the best in the business in that department.

What I found was that the Patriots are not really all that far off – but nobody seemed to want to hear that. I was either an idiot for not joining in on the post-loss draft bashfest, a homer for declaring the Pats drafts haven’t been that bad if you look at the numbers, and on top of that apparently because I compared them to the Steelers some thin skinned Pittsburgh fans feel slighted.

I still don’t understand how people can come to conclusions about what is a good or bad draft without knowing what’s the average, upper quartile, lower quartile, very best and very worst for the average number of elite players, starters, and solid contributors per team per year. It’s like complaining about a QB for throwing ten incomplete passes, ‘that’s ten wasted plays, bench the bum‘ … without considering what the norm is for number of incomplete passes – and then finding out he’s on average completing 25 out of 35 passes per game, making him one of the league’s most accurate passers.

The other point is that when you trade down in exchange for additional draft picks you are essentially conceding that the total number of busts will be higher. The roster size is still the same; the expected result should be more players drafted equals more players cut (i.e., busts); why people act surprised when this happens is baffling. Teams – and there fans – shouldn’t be the least bit concerned with how many players don’t work out; the important number is how many players do contribute and produce.

If you have more draft picks you will have more busts. If you have fewer draft picks you will have fewer draft busts. That’s shouldn’t really be that difficult to follow folks!  But apparently the concept that having a higher number of draft busts being irrelevant to which team had a better draft in this scenario really is rocket science to some people.

 

 

 

Dead cap money clause: Jets conspiracy or innocent oversight?

One very minor detail of the NFL’s new CBA – a single sentence, 59 pages deep into the document – could have major ramifications on the outcome of the 2011 season.

For the purpose of the salary cap players who were cut prior to the lockout will not count as dead money against this year’s cap.

 

So what is the big deal?

 

For the players union that means teams will be spending more real dollars, as opposed to cap numbers which are figures for accounting purposes only. But what this does is give an advantage to teams who cut players under contract during that three-week window between the end of the season and the start of the lockout. Players cut going forward will still have those numbers count against their old team’s salary cap.

This all seems quite arbitrary and inconsistent; it’s completely unprecedented in the NFL’s salary cap era. In addition the message coming out of the NFL’s office when the league opted out of the CBA and went to an uncapped year was that teams should make decisions based on the idea that a new CBA would be worked and that cap rules, regardless of what number the new cap would be, would remain intact. In other words, don’t sign a bunch of players to big signing bonuses and multi year contracts with the idea that you’ll be able to cut them before the end of the contract with no dead cap money ramifications.

 

Now it appears that was merely a suggestion, with no basis of fact.

However what makes this situation an even bigger deal is the possibility of impropriety. What if only one team knew about this ahead of time? Obviously they could take advantage of that knowledge by cutting several veterans very early in the year, rather than waiting. With no new CBA in place and no free agency on March 1, there was really no need to make the decision at that time.


Is Rex Ryan’s team had plenty of dead money prior to the lockout. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Now it’s not as if no cuts were made by 31 teams and several made by one team; that is not the case. However, the majority of the cuts were either marginal players with no impact to the salary cap (e.g., Pierre Woods), failed physicals (e.g., Chris Baker), or old housecleaning of players that had essentially retired that were on the reserve/failed to report list (e.g., Randall McDaniel).

One of the very few teams that did make early roster cuts was the New York Jets, cutting six players that reportedly had over $8 million in dead cap money between them – not an insignificant amount at all when you consider it’s not uncommon for anybody making over $1 million per year to be a potential cap casualty.

 

Now it is time for the tinfoil hat conspiracy theory.

While the lockout was on, there was only one fan base that seemed to be adamant that old dead cap money would not count against the new cap – even though that had never been the case since the salary cap began: the New York Jets. The reasoning behind this was allegedly some inside information on the wording of the new CBA. If this were true then where would a Jet fan most likely get that information; maybe from someone in the Jets organization? And if that were the case, where would the Jets have obtained that same information?

Perhaps from the offices of a former fan and former employee who now holds the title of league commissioner?

Now I realize this idea sounds rather fantastic; like I said before, tinfoil hat conspiracy time. But hasn’t Roger Goodell brought this upon himself? His past allegiances are well documented, yet he sees no need to remove himself from controversial decisions involving his former team. The punishment to Sal Alosi for his actions and Mike Westhoff for his comments last season were laughably weak when you compare how he reacts to players violating the Personal Conduct Policy; if anything I thought coaches were held to a higher standard – wasn’t that part of the rationale in the fine to Bill Belichick? In addition Goodell has shown himself to be wildly inconsistent with his decisions, which brings further scrutiny. The Patriots film and they lose a first round draft pick; the Broncos and Jets do the same thing and there are no repercussions. Player X does something he gets a small fine; Player Y does the same thing he gets suspended.

Removing the tinfoil conspiracy hat, at the very least if the two sides wanted clubs to spend more money in 2011 then there should have been a more equitable way to make that happen than giving amnesty to the handful of teams that had already cut players with big cap numbers. If not an error of commission then it’s an error of omission; Goodell should have realized that setting that arbitrary date of March 11 was not the correct decision. A better way to satisfy both sides would have been to add up the total dead cap money of all players cut from February 17 to March 11, divide by 32, and add that amount to each of the 32 NFL team’s 2011 cap. Now it’s fair for everybody involved.

 

And people like me don’t have an excuse to reach for our tinfoil hats.

 

In all seriousness, do I think the Jets had some secret information about this clause passed on to them by Goodell? Probably not; besides its being impossible to prove people like Goodell and Woody Johnson are far more interested in money than in wins and losses of their favorite team. But I find it ironic that the commissioner of the league, the man whose rallying cry is the integrity of the game, keeps making decisions that cause fans of the NFL to question that very same subject based on decisions that he makes, and how it seemingly favors his former employer and team he grew up rooting for. A person in his position should not be making such gaffes; if he’s not intelligent enough to avoid doing so he should step aside and let somebody else take over for the good of the game.

 

Here is a team-by-team look at cuts made between February 18 and March 11 of this year. I would have included what the cap savings would be for everyone involved, but I was unable to locate a reliable source for that information.

Arizona: none
Atlanta: S Eric Coleman, TE Jason Rader
Baltimore: none
Buffalo: LB Pierre Woods, LB Mike Balogun, DE Marcus Stroud
Carolina: none
Chicago: T Kevin Shaffer, DT Tommie Harris, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer
Cincinnati: none
Cleveland: LB Eric Barton, LB David Bowens, T John St. Clair, DT Shaun Rogers, TE Robert Royal, DE Kenyon Coleman
Dallas: none
Denver: TE Daniel Graham, DT Jamal Williams, DT Justin Bannan
Detroit: G Trevor Canfield; CB Eric King, LB Julian Peterson
Green Bay: S Derrick Martin, LB AJ Hawk (re-signed), TE Donald Lee, FB Chuck Webb, G Doug Karczewski
Houston: WR Andre Davis, LB Darnell Bing, LB Isaiah Greenhouse, DT DeMario Pressley, S Eugene Wilson
Indianapolis: S Bob Sanders
Jacksonville: WR Mike Sims-Walker; WR Chris McGaha
Kansas City: none
Miami: RB Deon Anderson, TE Jared Bronson
Minnesota: none
New England: none
New Orleans: RB Marcus Mailei, RB PJ Hill, TE Jeremy Shockey
New York Giants: none
New York Jets: CB Isaiah Trufant, LB Jason Taylor, DT Kris Jenkins, T Damien Woody, DE Vernon Gholston, TE Ben Hartsock
Oakland: none
Philadelphia: none
Pittsburgh: none
San Diego: none
San Francisco: none
Seattle: TE Chris Baker, QB Nate Davis, DE Patrick Kerney, WR Sean Morey
St. Louis: RB Mike Karney, S Oshiomogho Atogwe
Tampa Bay: LB Jon Alston, G Randall McDaniel, G Jason Nerys
Tennessee: none
Washington: RB Clinton Portis, LB Andre Carter, G Derrick Dockery

 

 

 

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How will new salary cap affect the Patriots?

As it appears that we are on the brink of a new CBA and the end of the NFL lockout, a new salary cap will reportedly be in the vicinity of $120 million, with lower salaries for top draft picks included. Under the terms of the old CBA we were looking at a cap of about $140 million; how will this restriction affect NFL teams like the Patriots?

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I felt that the last couple of years the cap had grown to a point where it had very little effect on team’s roster decisions relatively speaking, in comparison to the effect it previously had eight, ten, twelve or more years ago. Granted some of that was due to teams having learned their lesson and managing the cap better, but I think a lot of it was that the cap had grown above and beyond team’s budgets; in other words, the cap was no longer a restriction to teams signing whomever they wanted to. Now I don’t have any hard data to back that up; it’s just an observation and opinion of mine.

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What this meant was that teams could make an error in player evaluation and corresponding contract, and it did not hurt them nearly as much as it used to. As a result the teams who were more adept at working the cap and at making personnel decisions no longer had as much of a competitive advantage over those other teams, and franchises were no longer having to cut multiple veterans that they wanted to keep in order to avoid ‘cap hell’; similarly teams were able to rebound from those situations more quickly.

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Now I’m not trying to imply a poor personnel decision or bad contract had zero effect on a team; that’s certainly not the case. Nor am I saying no teams got themselves into bad cap situations (the Panthers being forced to extend Jake Delhomme in order to clear space for the money paid to Julius Peppers is a good example); I’m just saying it was happening far less frequently because of the rapid growth rate of the cap.

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It seems to me a tighter cap could mean that the more well run teams will have a competitive advantage once again. Remember how the cap was supposed to eliminate teams from doing well year after year – automated parity, if you will? The good teams were supposed to quickly fall back to the middle of the pack because they would lose so many players to free agency. Instead of that happening those well run franchises figured out not only how to survive, but how to thrive within the rules of the salary cap. My prediction is that will happen once again – which means organizations such as the New England Patriots will continue to be successful.

Expedited NFL labor hearing set for June 3

The 8th Circuit has granted the NFL owners’ request for an expedited appeal on the lockout stay, and it will be heard on June 3rd in St. Louis.

One of the issues on the lockout stay is the claim of irreparable harm, which seems to me will be difficult to prove.

The schedule of events will be as follows:

  • Monday May 9: NFL’s appeal brief is due
  • Thursday May 12: TV damages hearing
  • Monday May 16: Mediation
  • Friday May 20: Player’s response is due
  • Thursday May 26: NFL’s response is due
  • Friday June 3: Appeal hearing before Judges Bye, Colloton and Benton, which will include 30-minute oral arguments from both sides.

For the moment this does not change the lockout – though that could change in the next 48 hours.  The expedited appeal could help the owners with the stay; it could be seen as less irreparable harm since the season is still three months away. The stay could conceivably still be denied, which would allow the league year to begin – with the league looking to shut the doors again with the appeal.  That is because if the stay is denied then the league year begins – and with it offseason programs, trades, and free agency.

Back when Judge Nelson denied the stay, part of the reasoning was that the appeal could last for months. At the time she said it was unlikely that the appeal would be heard before the start of the season; with an expedited schedule that is no longer the case.

The bottom line is that this is good news; it’s better than having the case drag on for months throughout what is usually an NFL season. A regular court schedule would have given the NFL at least six weeks to file an opening brief – and in all likelihood it would have been much longer than that. Everything is going to be expedited – including the ruling.

As for the stay, expect a ruling on that issue by Thursday.

 

Stay tuned …