Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Lockout and the Draft

It's been awhile...

I've tried to keep only a marginal interest in the lockout, as it can be frustrating to watch wealthy people determine how to divide billions. In most cases, I am on the side of labor against management, and this situation is no exception. The lockout and it's eventual conclusion by legal ruling was predicted before negotiations had started. There was heavy speculation that the owners would want an additional billion before discussing the percentage of the remaining revenue split (which happened). Then, with negotiations going nowhere, the owners would proceed to lockout the players (happened). The players would then decertify and sue the NFL, with their biggest names on the lawsuit (Brady, Brees, Manning, etc.), the very players who would benefit the most if there were no free agency system in place, no cap, and lunatics like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder free to pay them twice what they make now (happened...again).

Next in line...a federal judge places an injunction on the lockout, and it's business as usual again (happened). Through this mess, we are no closer to reaching an agreement between the NFLPA and the owners. The only people happy with the labor strife are the armies of attorneys who are making a ton of money in legal fees. Since the scenario that played out had already been predicted, it makes you wonder what the owners were thinking in the first place. Did they think the climate was right for a power grab? Did they think football fans were as moronic as the public at large when it comes to rewarding people who deserve it the least, in this case wealthy football team owners instead of just your average millionaires? There's always been plenty of money to go around in the NFL for everyone to be happy, from management to labor, including the NFL Alumni who made the game what it is today.

They have the most popular product in American professional sports, and there is no close second. There is no reason to believe that the NFL won't continue to be exponentially more profitable in the future. The owners could have gotten the extra billion from the players if they were able to prove they were losing money by opening their books. Instead, they want the players to take their word for it. I've never believed the reason they provided for not releasing detailed information. The owners would claim that no owner wants another owner to know how they conduct their business. I've always felt if they could prove they were losing money, they would. But, they can't, because the claim of poverty has always been garbage.

The players were willing to negotiate on most of the owners major points in the initial negotiation. The owners could have had a rookie salary cap early in this process, if they only would have committed to distributing the extra money to veteran players, but they wouldn't make that concession until months later. The owners have always acted as if they were going to take advantage of the players in this collective bargaining agreement. They now have to bank on the players willingness to accept the old arrangements. I don't believe an appeal of the injunction is going to work. Hopefully, the two sides will reach an equitable agreement that can make the game better, an agreement with fair revenue sharing, increased medical benefits for players and ex-players, a rookie cap that transfers money targeted for player salaries from unproven rookies to established veterans, and serious price controls for the middle class fan that still wants to go the game. Until that happens, at least we will have football in the meantime.

Considering that there hasn't been any free agency period, restricted or otherwise, the New York Jets head into this evening's first round of the NFL Draft with little idea whether or not they will be able to keep Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, or Antonio Cromartie. Some free agents during this offseason will have a tremendous amount of leverage due to the way the labor issue has played out. The Jets are in no position to replace 2 starters at receiver during the draft, so, once the draft concludes, the Jets will have to either sign Edwards or sign Holmes (or both). The Jets (and several other teams that are in the same position) will have to have a plan in place before they pick as to how they are going to retain or acquire talent in free agency. I trust GM Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan will make the right decisions this weekend and not leave the team with glaring holes before training camp begins this summer.

As for the local squad, it appears they are taking Cam Newton, who is one of the greatest athletes I've ever seen at the QB position, but has never had to call an audible before at the college level (RED FLAG). I'm not privy to the interview process that Newton and the rest of the draft class is put through prior to the draft, but if Carolina intends to take Newton, I hope they've determined that he can learn what he needs to in order to be successful at the pro level. If he pans out, it should be fun watching that team for the next decade. If he's a bust (which I'm leaning towards), it will torpedo the Panthers for the next 5 years.

I would be happy if the Jets wind up with a gigantic nose tackle like Phil Taylor from Baylor, or an edge playmaker like Akeem Ayers. I would be happy if they traded down and got an additional second or third round pick because I feel there's value in those rounds, especially specific needs the Jets have (youth in the front seven, a speedy receiver who can return kicks). I expect Rex to take another corner that can play press coverage.

I also think Patrick Peterson is the best player in the draft. I like Julio Jones more than A.J. Green. I think Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder are going to be decent starters in the league, with a chance at Pro Bowl status in the right system. I also think Ryan Mallett is going to fall like a stone, then play well when he gets a chance in the NFL. This draft class has gotten a bad rap, I think there's a lot of solid players in the top 20, guys who have All Pro potential.

The first round of the draft is tonight at 8pm.