I know it isn’t a popular topic for many fans, nor one that some want to even acknowledge. But the reality is this: While a possible NFL work stoppage — because of the expired collective bargaining agreement and its official end date at the beginning of the 2011 league year (approximately March 1) — remains months and an entire NFL season away, it’s already impacting the league.
It’s easy to see it in the Cardinals’ backyard. Guard Deuce Lutui, with his four years played in the NFL, would have normally been an unrestricted free agent and a prime candidate for either a contract on the open market or the long-term extension he coveted. But because of the temporary one-year rules because of the expiring CBA, Lutui went from being an unrestricted free agent to restricted. He got no nibbles as an RFA with a second-round tender, and to this date, has resisted signing the Cards’ one-year tender offer of $1.76 million. The Cards could lower his tender next week (June 15) if he doesn’t sign to less than $600,000. Maybe Lutui signs. Maybe he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, the Cards have to consider long and hard if they want to lower the offer to Lutui — whom they still see in their long-range plans. Why? Well, just look at the Chargers, who have warned unsigned RFA T Marcus McNeill and unsigned RFA WR Vincent Jackson they will indeed drop their offers if the two don’t sign by next week. Beat writer Kevin Acee calls it a “potentially toxic stage” in the relationship between players and team, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why. There may be no repairing the potential divide if that happens.
Meanwhile, the union is building up its “war chest” in case of a stoppage even as revenues have gone down. It’s safe to think the owners are doing the same look-ahead kind of process. That’s one of the reasons there are few big extensions being done for players. Another reason are the rule restraints on big salary jumps. Until there is a new CBA, no one knows if there will be a salary cap (although I can’t believe the owners won’t want some sort of cost constraint in place, even if it isn’t a salary cap). No one knows what free agency will look like — the old way, or something different?
No one knows much of anything for the future. So mostly, teams will be cautious, even now. It’s frustrating all around. But it’s a fact of life, even with the 2010 season on deck.
Tags: Deuce Lutui, free agency, labor
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