It’s been a while since posting something here, because mainly I’ve been trying to hold until this CBA thing is resolved. It should now be resolved within the next 24 hours, since I don’t expect another extension, which would be third one.
Now I’m trying to imagine what the world would be like with a salary cap-less NFL. Most compare it to baseball, and thinking in those terms this is what I’d think it would be like.
In baseball, the Yankees and Red Sox are the richest teams. Their revenues are highest and their rivalry makes them extremely competitive towards one another, doing their best to attract the best and most expensive talent. An analog in the NFL would be the Redskins and Cowboys. They too sport a storied rivalry, and their owners: Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones have shown few reservations in the past about spending big bucks to get players regardless of their abilities. Snyder has earned the nickname “Snyder-brenner” by some due to his close business mindset of George Steinbrenner.
Where do the Falcons fit into this puzzle? I would suspect that because of Blank’s riches, and the fact that the team plays in Atlanta would make the Falcons one of the upper echelon teams in terms of payroll and attraction to free agents. Atlanta is home to more black athletes than any other city in this country, and a large chunk of NFL players have a home here. Blank, I believe in terms of wealth and worth is second only to Seattle’s Paul Allen among owners.
But even with those factors, I don’t see the Falcons being able to compete with the Redskins, Cowboys, and other high revenue teams because they don’t own their own stadium. Teams like those along with the Eagles, and Patriots cash in a lot because of the revenue their stadiums generate. If the NFL went uncapped, I would suspect that Blank would begin plans to build a new stadium for the team. Goodbye Georgia Dome, so that is one big change. And then that makes you wonder if the Falcons will build an indoor stadium or outdoor one. I’m sure that whatever decision is made, a big factor will be Blank’s ability to attract Super Bowls here and other venues (which leads me to believe it will remain an indoor one). I would probably equate your typical year for the Falcons would have them somewhere about where the Braves are in payroll. I believe this past season, they ranked 10th in payroll in the league.
I know in 2007, a player has to have six or more years to become an unrestricted free agent. But I’m not sure if that continues in 2008 and beyond (I’m assuming it does). If that is the case, the spending sprees that come in baseball are less likely to occur because you won’t be having the brunt of top notch free agents being 26 and 27 years old. Teams spend big money on those guys because they typically have 5-7 years left in the league of playing at a top level. Instead, you’ll get a lot of 28-30 year olds on the open market, and teams won’t be as willing to give out those 8-figure signing bonus to guys that may be able to contribute at a top level for 2-3 more years.
So in mind, a cap-less NFL presents greater opportunity for players to remain with their original teams for the entirety of their career. By Year 4 or 5, a player is going to be poised to hit the free agent market soon, and teams are likely going to pony up some money to extend their contracts for several years so they can keep those guys into their thirties. But I could have the opposite effect. As I said before, players won’t have as much leverage anymore in terms of their market value, so teams may be less willing to give big dollars to guys and let a majority of their free agents walk.
Also, I think the $100 million contract for a quarterback is going to be a very common phenomenon. In 2001, only two passers qualified here: Favre and Bledsoe. But since then, guys like Culpepper, Vick, Manning, McNabb, and Palmer have joined the club. Tom Brady, Chad Pennington, among some others have received deals of $60 million or more recently, so I think in a cap less NFL almost any QB worth a damn would be getting huge contracts. Also guys like Marvin Harrison, Shaun Alexander, and Randy Moss wouldn’t be the only non-QBs to get deals of $60 million or more. More running backs, wide receivers, defensive ends, and cornerbacks would also get contracts in that range. Projecting 7 or 8 years down the road, you would see probably 50 or so players with these kinds of contract, when that number is limited to about a dozen or so now. Eventually, the NFL would look a lot like baseball. We are currently at $100 million payrolls in the NFL, but when you factor in no cap and signing bonuses aren’t prorated anymore, you are looking at teams having payrolls of $200 and $300 million or more. Right now, if you multiply the current $94.5 million salary cap times all 32 teams, you have about $3 billion just going towards player salaries. When you divide that by the total number of players in the league, the average salary is about $1.6 million.
It makes you sick when you think about it that way, that no matter what happens with the CBA, the rich will find someway to get richer.