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Old 08-03-2006   #1
threetoedpete
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Default It's a bird. It's a plane. It's the ...CBA ?

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POSTED 8:07 a.m. EDT, August 3, 2006

CAP TO HIT $165 MILLION BY 2011?

There's talk in league circles that, within five seasons, the salary cap could rocket from $102 million to a whopping $165 million.

(It's a long way from the $34.6 million per-team spending limit that first was implemented in 1994.)

Others believe that the cap will land between $145 million and $150 million by 2010.

Either way, the increase in the money that each franchise can spend on its players is going to be even more staggering, and it's a direct result of the continued growth and prosperity of the greatest professional sports league in the known universe. It's also a product of the increase in the percentage of Total Football Revenue that will fund the cap, which gradually moves from 61.89 percent in 2006 to 62.95 percent in 2010.

As a practical matter, this means that younger players (especially rookies) need to get themselves in position to hit the market when the cap approaches and/or passes $150 million. Why? Because someone is gonna get a ton of money in those years, and if a player is already under contract at the time, the chances of joining in the feast decreases.

TEAMS USING SIX-YEAR DEALS BECAUSE THEY CAN

We're told that the pending contract disputes between the Dolphins and the Eagles and their respective first-round picks is a direct result of the recent CBA negotiations. As part of the deal, contracts are now limited in length, with six years being the longest term for the first 16 picks in round one, five years the maximum for the next 16 picks, and four years for the rest of the class.

So because teams now can't cram five-year deals down the throats of second-round picks, we're told that some of the teams with the ability to insist on six-year deals are doing so simply because they can.

That's the thinking regarding the current positions taken by the Eagles and the Dolphins, even though in 2005 most if not all of the first-rounders below the top two picks got five-year deals.

And the problem is that, for players taken beneath the top five spots, it's generally not a good thing to be saddled with a six-year deal. But although past precedent suggests a five-year contract for the No. 14 and No. 16 picks, the Eagles and Fins are believed to be taking a hard line pursuant to a "you asked for it, you got it" attitude toward the NFLPA and the new CBA.

And if Brodrick Bunkley and Jason Allen ink six-year deals, they'll be tied up through 2011, missing out on free agency during the first two years in which the cap approaches and/or exceeds $150 million.

TENDERS EXPECTED TO DOUBLE SOON

Here's another reason for players to do shorter deals -- folks in league circles expect the restricted free agent, transition, and franchise tenders to double within the next few years.

Players become eligible for restricted free agency after three years. But if they are still working under the terms of a rookie contract after the third season, the player is bound by the terms of that deal, and can't qualify for restricted free agency.

Ditto for unrestricted free agency, which kicks in after four years. Rookies who signed five-year or six-year contracts can't qualify for free agency until those contracts expire. (And, in turn, they have less leverage at the bargaining table when negotiating an extension after three or four years, since the team still holds their rights through the first year or two in which the player would be eligible to hit the open market.)

With more second-day picks getting four-year deals under the new CBA, some players have dealt with this issue by negotiating escalators that will increase their fourth-year salary to one of the various levels of restricted free agent tenders. The quandary remains whether to take the extra signing bonus money to cover the four-year term. For many guys, however, it's not an option, since teams have been insisting on four-year deals for slots that used to get only three-year terms in most cities because, as described above, teams are reacting to the new CBA's limits on contract length.
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