Lifting Lockout Good for Players, Football; Could Hurt Steelers in 2011

With the ongoing NFL labor strife and free-agency uncertainty, this may be the toughest draft to forecast ever, particularly since there is no top-tier player at a need position that most Steelers fans hope is available with the No. 31 pick.

Judge Nelson’s lifting of the owners-imposed lockout was the correct judicial decision, a victory for both the players and individual rights, and a setback for the greedy owners and inept commissioner Roger Goodell who brought upon this whole mess by trying to significantly alter what is currently the most profitable sports league in this country’s history, not to mention a collective bargaining agreement that is much more owner-friendly than those existing in Major League Baseball or the National Basketball Association.

However, the lifting of the lockout could also hurt the Steelers’ 2011 Super Bowl aspirations. The NFL’s request of a stay of Nelson’s ruling could eventually be granted by the more pro-business, Republican-appointed judges who dominate the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Though most legal experts are predicting that will not happen due to judicial precedent and the strong wording of Nelson’s opinion.

If the Eighth Circuit does not hand a victory to the owners, and a new CBA is not suddenly agreed upon (the latter of which appears even more unlikely), the NFL will begin operating for its 2011 season under 2010 rules. That means that individual teams will retain rights to most of their fourth- and fifth-year players, who would have been unrestricted free agents under 2009 rules.

The Steelers’ astutely issued one-year restricted free-agent tenders to offensive tackle Willie Colon, tight end Matt Spaeth, cornerback William Gay, and also to often-injured punter Daniel Sepulveda, and that may prevent any of those fourth- and fifth-year players from becoming free agents before the 2011 season.

More importantlyy it means that the Steelers’ only quality cornerback, Ike Taylor, will soon become an unrestricted free agent, going from one of the most coveted corners on the market to one of the most coveted players overall in what will be a much smaller, diluted free-agent pool.

Taylor likely would give the Steelers a hometown-discount to remain in Pittsburgh, where he has expressed affinity for head coach Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and the Rooney family. However, with no salary cap in place for 2011, there is a good chance teams like the Giants, Texans or Redskins will offer much more than the Steelers, and Taylor could (who turns 31 next week) depart for his last big contract.

The Steelers’ greatest need for next season heading into this draft was already cornerback, although offensive tackle was seen as the greatest long-term need. But in light of the possibility that Taylor leaves (pray that does not happen) after Judge Nelson’s initial ruling, the Steelers may feel more compelled to draft a cornerback early in the draft (e.g., Aaron Williams, Brandon Harris) over a player at another position who they have rated higher, such as Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward or Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.

Of course, the labor situation remains in flux. The best guess is that this offseason (whenever it begins) Taylor will be an unrestricted free agent, while most fourth- and fifth-year players will remain property of their current teams. As such, cornerback should now, overwhelming, be the Steelers’ top focus in this draft.

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  • t1mmy10

    don’t you mean good for the greedy players who never really decertified and deMoron smith, who’s threatening to try to ruin the sport as we know it if he doesn’t get his way?

    about 5% of starting players in ’09 made more or an equivalent amount (aka within 5% or 500k) to the profit of about 20% of nfl teams. the 6th to last team (or cutoff point in this situation) was the well run, publicly owned GB packers. i think that’s a pretty outrageous stat. plus i’m pretty sure i can safetly say i don’t think ANYONE would be happy getting about a 1% return on investment when you have almost a billion dollars invested in your nfl team. so let’s not ostracize the owners for trying to increase their share of the profit.

    these stats are based upon the usatoday player salary database & forbes assessment of valuation of nfl teams. 2010′s info hasn’t been released yet for those sites.

    that being said i agree the steelers focus will be cb.

    • Anonymous

      C’mon, t1mmy10, if the owners don’t open their books, we only have their word as to what the made. There are many ways to hide assets if the books can’t be looked at.

      The average valuation of an NFL franchise is over $1 billion (and it has grown faster than any other sport over the last 10 years.) Apparently people who know about these things disagree that an NFL franchise is a bad investment.

      I support the players 100%. It is a dangerous job with a short lifespan, high risk of debilitating injury, and no job security at all since long-term contracts can be voided. They SHOULD get the majority of the money.

    • Anonymous

      C’mon, t1mmy10, if the owners don’t open their books, we only have their word as to what the made. There are many ways to hide assets if the books can’t be looked at.

      The average valuation of an NFL franchise is over $1 billion (and it has grown faster than any other sport over the last 10 years.) Apparently people who know about these things disagree that an NFL franchise is a bad investment.

      I support the players 100%. It is a dangerous job with a short lifespan, high risk of debilitating injury, and no job security at all since long-term contracts can be voided. They SHOULD get the majority of the money.

      • t1mmy10

        sorry for my delay in responding.

        i completely agree the owners need to show more financial info than what they offered, however the amount of the players have demanded is unrealistic. although there is no absolute proof that the owners aren’t making as much as they “should,” it’s undeniable that the current evidence (ex. forbes valuation) and the packers yearly open books (they can’t give themselves fake salaries like some teams have done) points towards some teams not doing the best and taking hits in their profits over the past few years. the notion that increased revenues always translates into increased profits isn’t always true because costs can increase faster than your revenue, which the nfl owners are arguing has occurred. those same people you refer to being in the know are the ones i took those stats from. furthermore, 2 owners have sold their teams over the past 3 years. regardless the reason, if every team was as profitable as you imply then that probably wouldn’t have happened. i want the owners to submit their books to an independent 3rd party firm. they would process the numbers and compile the different teams’ profits without identifying teams in particular. any money paid to family members of the owners would count as profit unless they hold an official title with the team (ex. jerry jones being the gm). even then, that salary would be compared to the salaries of similar positions for other teams and corrected by factors for experience and level of skill to find out if it was appropriate.

        no doubt players deserve a lot of money because it is a high risk area and very few ppl can do what they do. that being said, financial liability traditionally takes the cake in terms of what employees are paid by their employers and the owners in this case have all of the financial liability. furthermore, the game is so popular today because of the way the owners have marketed it and the rules they implemented. there are just as great of athletes in other sports that aren’t nearly as popular. i do agree that the players deserve things like better injury compensation, better post-retirement health benefits, and the owners implementing more safety measures for the players (such as hgh testing and better helmets for the good of the players). but i’m pretty sure that anyone of us would jump at the chance to earn a couple million for playing a game and be treated like a celebrity for a few years even if it meant increased risk of brain damage, arthritis, and joint replacements 30 years down the road.

        bottom line: i just a feel the recent cap increases haven’t taken into account increases in cost and that’s what is causing this situation. i don’t agree with the owners take to try to get more money than they deserve, which they have also undoubtedly done.

    • Ted

      Smith’s way? WTH? The players will continue with the contact that is making everyone lots of money even though NFL players – unlike those in the NBA or MLB – do not have guaranteed contracts, have the shortest career spans, make less money on average than all three other major sports (including even hockey), and are more suspect to injury. Beyond that, the players initially agreed to a rookie wage scale (good for both sides) and to take a lesser share. But the owners absurdly wanted them to literally flip the 60-40 ratio and increase the first billion the owners keep to 2 billion before the division, claiming they were not making enough money.

      When someone asks you to take essentially a 20% paycut across the board despite TV and merchandise revenue better than ever before, you then ask to see the books to back up their claims. Of course, the owners won’t provide them in full, because they full of crap. Essentially, the just tried to strong-arm new leadership in the union to get a better deal than the very good one they already had.

      • t1mmy10

        sorry for my delay in replying.

        i am referring to the players recent lawsuit. it attacks the salary cap, restricted free agency, free agency rules, the current rookie salary cap, and other things. it DOESN’T fight for lower end of the spectrum player benefits or retired player benefits. i was also referring to recent speculation that the lawsuit is the PA*’s way of saying “drop the lockout or we completely change the league as we know it.” i agree the avg length of time in the league is short (6 years) but just because it’s short doesn’t mean players deserve to make a lifetime’s worth of money in that period of time.

        oh, and if the players are attacking the nfl’s current failed attempt to limit rookie salaries (the rookie salary cap) then you better believe they have either thrown the tacit agreement to a rookie wage scale out the window or want major concessions in return…even though (i might be wrong about this) that the owners promised to take the projected money saved from that and give it to the vets. again, another situation where the lawsuit isn’t looking out for the bottom end players.

        the lawyers involved with managing the PA also have refused to say that they will not add attacking the nfl draft to the lawsuit after this draft has concluded. in fact, many have said that they would prefer the player pick their team and go to the highest bidder. based on your draft posts, i’m guessing you wouldn’t be a fan of that.

        i’ve personally never been in a lockout/strike/group salary negotiation setting before. but judging from reading ppl’s comments on other boards who have been in that situation, expecting to get your employer’s books documenting how every cent was spent the last 10 years to justify a decrease in salary is completely unrealistic. even if every cent is legit, it opens the door for the employee to tell you how to run your business. you can read my comment below for more of my take on your claim that the owners are “full of crap,” but i guess you would also have to say forbes (who is an independent 3rd party group) is also “full of crap” and the packers publicly reported earns are “full of crap.” fyi, the owners opted out of the current cba BEFORE upshaw was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died.

        make no mistake about it, BOTH sides are greedy and just want as much as they can get for themselves and, unfortunately, care little about the other side.

      • t1mmy10

        sorry for my delay in replying.

        i am referring to the players recent lawsuit. it attacks the salary cap, restricted free agency, free agency rules, the current rookie salary cap, and other things. it DOESN’T fight for lower end of the spectrum player benefits or retired player benefits. i was also referring to recent speculation that the lawsuit is the PA*’s way of saying “drop the lockout or we completely change the league as we know it.” i agree the avg length of time in the league is short (6 years) but just because it’s short doesn’t mean players deserve to make a lifetime’s worth of money in that period of time.

        oh, and if the players are attacking the nfl’s current failed attempt to limit rookie salaries (the rookie salary cap) then you better believe they have either thrown the tacit agreement to a rookie wage scale out the window or want major concessions in return…even though (i might be wrong about this) that the owners promised to take the projected money saved from that and give it to the vets. again, another situation where the lawsuit isn’t looking out for the bottom end players.

        the lawyers involved with managing the PA also have refused to say that they will not add attacking the nfl draft to the lawsuit after this draft has concluded. in fact, many have said that they would prefer the player pick their team and go to the highest bidder. based on your draft posts, i’m guessing you wouldn’t be a fan of that.

        i’ve personally never been in a lockout/strike/group salary negotiation setting before. but judging from reading ppl’s comments on other boards who have been in that situation, expecting to get your employer’s books documenting how every cent was spent the last 10 years to justify a decrease in salary is completely unrealistic. even if every cent is legit, it opens the door for the employee to tell you how to run your business. you can read my comment below for more of my take on your claim that the owners are “full of crap,” but i guess you would also have to say forbes (who is an independent 3rd party group) is also “full of crap” and the packers publicly reported earns are “full of crap.” fyi, the owners opted out of the current cba BEFORE upshaw was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died.

        make no mistake about it, BOTH sides are greedy and just want as much as they can get for themselves and, unfortunately, care little about the other side.

      • t1mmy10

        sorry for my delay in replying.

        i am referring to the players recent lawsuit. it attacks the salary cap, restricted free agency, free agency rules, the current rookie salary cap, and other things. it DOESN’T fight for lower end of the spectrum player benefits or retired player benefits. i was also referring to recent speculation that the lawsuit is the PA*’s way of saying “drop the lockout or we completely change the league as we know it.” i agree the avg length of time in the league is short (6 years) but just because it’s short doesn’t mean players deserve to make a lifetime’s worth of money in that period of time.

        oh, and if the players are attacking the nfl’s current failed attempt to limit rookie salaries (the rookie salary cap) then you better believe they have either thrown the tacit agreement to a rookie wage scale out the window or want major concessions in return…even though (i might be wrong about this) that the owners promised to take the projected money saved from that and give it to the vets. again, another situation where the lawsuit isn’t looking out for the bottom end players.

        the lawyers involved with managing the PA also have refused to say that they will not add attacking the nfl draft to the lawsuit after this draft has concluded. in fact, many have said that they would prefer the player pick their team and go to the highest bidder. based on your draft posts, i’m guessing you wouldn’t be a fan of that.

        i’ve personally never been in a lockout/strike/group salary negotiation setting before. but judging from reading ppl’s comments on other boards who have been in that situation, expecting to get your employer’s books documenting how every cent was spent the last 10 years to justify a decrease in salary is completely unrealistic. even if every cent is legit, it opens the door for the employee to tell you how to run your business. you can read my comment below for more of my take on your claim that the owners are “full of crap,” but i guess you would also have to say forbes (who is an independent 3rd party group) is also “full of crap” and the packers publicly reported earns are “full of crap.” fyi, the owners opted out of the current cba BEFORE upshaw was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died.

        make no mistake about it, BOTH sides are greedy and just want as much as they can get for themselves and, unfortunately, care little about the other side.

      • t1mmy10

        sorry for my delay in replying.

        i am referring to the players recent lawsuit. it attacks the salary cap, restricted free agency, free agency rules, the current rookie salary cap, and other things. it DOESN’T fight for lower end of the spectrum player benefits or retired player benefits. i was also referring to recent speculation that the lawsuit is the PA*’s way of saying “drop the lockout or we completely change the league as we know it.” i agree the avg length of time in the league is short (6 years) but just because it’s short doesn’t mean players deserve to make a lifetime’s worth of money in that period of time.

        oh, and if the players are attacking the nfl’s current failed attempt to limit rookie salaries (the rookie salary cap) then you better believe they have either thrown the tacit agreement to a rookie wage scale out the window or want major concessions in return…even though (i might be wrong about this) that the owners promised to take the projected money saved from that and give it to the vets. again, another situation where the lawsuit isn’t looking out for the bottom end players.

        the lawyers involved with managing the PA also have refused to say that they will not add attacking the nfl draft to the lawsuit after this draft has concluded. in fact, many have said that they would prefer the player pick their team and go to the highest bidder. based on your draft posts, i’m guessing you wouldn’t be a fan of that.

        i’ve personally never been in a lockout/strike/group salary negotiation setting before. but judging from reading ppl’s comments on other boards who have been in that situation, expecting to get your employer’s books documenting how every cent was spent the last 10 years to justify a decrease in salary is completely unrealistic. even if every cent is legit, it opens the door for the employee to tell you how to run your business. you can read my comment below for more of my take on your claim that the owners are “full of crap,” but i guess you would also have to say forbes (who is an independent 3rd party group) is also “full of crap” and the packers publicly reported earns are “full of crap.” fyi, the owners opted out of the current cba BEFORE upshaw was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died.

        make no mistake about it, BOTH sides are greedy and just want as much as they can get for themselves and, unfortunately, care little about the other side.

      • t1mmy10

        sorry for my delay in replying.

        i am referring to the players recent lawsuit. it attacks the salary cap, restricted free agency, free agency rules, the current rookie salary cap, and other things. it DOESN’T fight for lower end of the spectrum player benefits or retired player benefits. i was also referring to recent speculation that the lawsuit is the PA*’s way of saying “drop the lockout or we completely change the league as we know it.” i agree the avg length of time in the league is short (6 years) but just because it’s short doesn’t mean players deserve to make a lifetime’s worth of money in that period of time.

        oh, and if the players are attacking the nfl’s current failed attempt to limit rookie salaries (the rookie salary cap) then you better believe they have either thrown the tacit agreement to a rookie wage scale out the window or want major concessions in return…even though (i might be wrong about this) that the owners promised to take the projected money saved from that and give it to the vets. again, another situation where the lawsuit isn’t looking out for the bottom end players.

        the lawyers involved with managing the PA also have refused to say that they will not add attacking the nfl draft to the lawsuit after this draft has concluded. in fact, many have said that they would prefer the player pick their team and go to the highest bidder. based on your draft posts, i’m guessing you wouldn’t be a fan of that.

        i’ve personally never been in a lockout/strike/group salary negotiation setting before. but judging from reading ppl’s comments on other boards who have been in that situation, expecting to get your employer’s books documenting how every cent was spent the last 10 years to justify a decrease in salary is completely unrealistic. even if every cent is legit, it opens the door for the employee to tell you how to run your business. you can read my comment below for more of my take on your claim that the owners are “full of crap,” but i guess you would also have to say forbes (who is an independent 3rd party group) is also “full of crap” and the packers publicly reported earns are “full of crap.” fyi, the owners opted out of the current cba BEFORE upshaw was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died.

        make no mistake about it, BOTH sides are greedy and just want as much as they can get for themselves and, unfortunately, care little about the other side.

  • Grw1960

    According to an article at S.I. by McCann. The NfL will not be able to operate under 2010 rules. As it would be a violation of anti-trust laws since there is no players union.
    All franchise tags and tenders may have to be withdrawn.And possibly no salary cap for 2011 as they would also violate anti-trust laws.
    If so the Steelers could loose Woodley, Colon, Gay, Taylor and others

    • Ted

      Good comments. I read that article and here is the link: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/michael_mccann/04/27/judge.ruling.qa/index.html?eref=sihp

      The NFL did operate without a salary cap last season. All of this stuff may be illegal under anti-trust laws. But to finalize that all of this stuff would have to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court and that would take years through the judicial system. Everyone expects us to have a new CBA before that happens.

      What is in question, though, are the franchise tags, because they cease to exist after 2010 even under the old CBA. But the CBA that we operated under 2010 (remember all the changes from 09) clearly stated rules for classificiation between UFA and RFA.

      Your post was good, though, as is that article. We don’t really know what is going to happen. What we do know, though, is that barring a stay from the Eighth Circuit. Ike, Eason, Hoke, Moore, J. Scott and Essex will all become UFAs, while Colon, Gay, Spaeth, etc. will not.