INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to strong unions, the National Football League Players Association has about as much chance negotiating against team owners as the original Texans had at the Alamo.
Sometime in the very near future, the players will ratify a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
Let me stop here for a moment in search of complete fairness.
Judging the new CBA based on the few bullet points that have been purposely leaked to try and make it look like a win-win is impossible and irresponsible.
The current CBA is 300 pages long and includes details on the salary cap, minimum salaries, performance-based pool, separation pay, health benefits, pensions, retirement plans, career savings plan, player annuity plan, legacy benefit plan, group insurance, disability plan, etc.
The new one hasn’t been written yet.
After getting crushed by the owners the last time around, it is impossible to know how bad a beating the players will take this time until we actually know all that is in the new deal.
What do we believe the players will get in this new CBA?
A 17-game regular season we know they don’t want, with the exhibition season shortened by just one game and no extra in-season bye week.
There are significant increases in minimum salaries, two more roster spots, two more players dressing on Sunday and 2-4 more practice squad spots, allegedly upgraded pensions for retired players (no details are available yet), fewer padded practices and fewer requirements in the offseason and training camp.
Most importantly, there is a 1.5 percent increase in their share of the revenue from 47 percent to 48.5 percent, still leaving them at least 4.5 points below where they were 10 years ago.
The inherent weakness of the NFLPA is not a criticism of or negative commentary on its membership in any way.
With average careers of under four years and almost certainly at least 90 percent of the players earning dramatically more annually than they ever will again in their lives, the overwhelming majority of the membership simply can’t afford a work stoppage.
They have no leverage whatsoever.
Of course the irony of that is the players are the game and a finite and impossibly small percentage of the population, and as such should receive the overwhelming majority of the revenue while the owners bring absolutely nothing to the table that any other billionaire couldn’t.
That’s just the reality of professional sports.
All of that said, here is what we do know.
Prior to the signing of the current CBA in 2011, NFL revenue was approximately $8.4 billion in 2010, and the players were earning somewhere between 53-57 percent of it.
The union then accepted the current deal giving them 47 percent of the revenue, a minimum six percent, $504 million giveback on Day 1.
While the owners and players have all gotten richer in nine seasons since with total revenue growing to approximately $16 billion last season, that six percent giveback on an annual basis has taken approximately $6 billion out of the players pockets and put it in the owners’.
Why can we be sure this deal will be accepted?
Because what the owners have done is taken almost all of the money to cover the improved benefits in this deal from players on the top half of rosters to give it to players on the bottom half, and it only requires 50 percent of the players plus one to ratify the deal.
That is illustrated by the fact that the NFLPA’s Executive Committee originally voted 6-5 against accepting the deal, and the 32 player representatives then voted just 17-14 with one abstention to send it to the full membership for a vote.
It is a classic NFL owners power play they will get away with just because they can.
What does it mean to the fans?
Many believe the reduction in practice time and padded practices in the last deal led directly to a decrease in the quality of play, and if true, quality will continue to decline.
One unintended consequence of the owners' latest money grab is the 17th game will cause every team to play one fewer home game than road game every other season, meaning every season, half the teams in the league will be at a significant competitive disadvantage.
However, the great news is there will be no work stoppage, and for that I guess we can all be grateful.