By Brian McIntyre
Now that the 2006 collective bargaining agreement expired, the NFLPA decertified and the NFL owners locked out the players – who are filing lawsuits and injunctions against the NFL – a common belief has been that neither side will blink until August or September, when the threat of missed gates and game-checks will be most real.
There is some truth in that, though both sides have plenty of incentives to reach a deal as quickly as possible.
For the owners, it’s about control.
Many NFL teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, were to begin off-season conditioning programs this week. With players barred from the facilities, those programs are on hold.
Off-Season Training Activities (OTAs) and mini-camps have been scheduled and were to begin next month, giving teams that hired new head coaches and coordinators between 14 and 23 days’ worth of practices to install systems before training camp. Those, too, will have to wait.
Another negative aspect of the lockout from the team’s perspective is that players are not subject to random drug tests or the personal conduct policy.
From the players’ point of view, the biggest issue with the lockout is that free agency has been delayed. Over 500 would-be free agents are currently in limbo, and may remain so until a new collective bargaining is in place, or the players receive an injunction that lifts the lockout. A hearing on an injunction is scheduled for April 6, but even then, 2010 rules are likely to be imposed, meaning players with four or five accrued seasons, like Brandon Mebane, will be restricted free agents and kept off the open market.
Players under contract could lose over $40 million in workout bonuses this off-season, with a few hundred million in salary advances and option/roster bonuses delayed indefinitely.
The Seahawks’ player with the most to lose is offensive lineman Stacy Andrews, who is due a $500,000 workout bonus this off-season. 2010 first-round pick Russell Okung has a $200,000 workout bonus, while Marcus Trufant, Lofa Tatupu, Earl Thomas, Chris Clemons, and Mike Williams have $100,000 workout bonuses. Kentwan Balmer ($62,500) and John Carlson ($60,000) stand to lose five-figure workout bonuses this off-season. Marshawn Lynch has an $8,120 workout bonus from his Buffalo Bills contract, while Max Unger stands to miss out on a $7,000 workout bonus in his rookie contract.
Considering how rookie deals are structured, it’s no surprise that 2010 first-round picks Okung and Thomas have the largest amounts of off-season payments that are currently delayed by the lockout.
Okung and Thomas are due to receive salary advances within the first 30 days of the 2011 league year, whenever that begins. Okung is scheduled to receive $10 million from his 2011-15 salaries, while Thomas gets $5 million from his 2011-14 salaries. Okung is also scheduled to receive a $5 million reporting bonus this off-season, while Thomas will receive a reporting bonus worth $3.5 million.
Though it’s unclear if he reached playing-time requirements last season to achieve it, 2010 second-round pick Golden Tate may have a $471,500 reporting bonus due at the start of training camp.
As part of their three-year contract extensions, Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu are each due $1 million in roster and reporting bonuses this off-season. In the unlikely scenario where games are missed due to the lockout, Williams, Balmer, and David Hawthorne would lose per game roster bonuses.