By Tom E. Curran
Still head-scratching over why the players wouldn't take the NFL's final offer on Friday? Blame the NFLPA for that. The owners have painted themselves as the most magnanimous set of billionaires a person could ever encounter in the past few days and the players haven't ably shown why, in actuality, they aren't. On Saturday, I asked former player Pete Kendall - who was in the three weeks of negotiations - what the biggest problem was with the owners' offer. He said, to boil it down, the owners wanted to pocket 100 percent of the money any time they exceeded the league's projected revenue. And the owners were trying to project the revenue at artificially low levels. We're going to get into some complex stuff here, but before doing so I'll illustrate what Kendall explained to me as simply as I can. If the owners "pegged" revenue for 10 billion in a season and then exceeded that projection, they wanted all the money to go into their pockets. The players were willing to give them the first 1.5 percent free and clear (in the 10 billion case, 150 million). After that, they wanted a 50-50 split. Some more damning details? The NFL has grown in revenue at an average rate of 7.5 percent over the past five years. Yet the projected growth numbers the NFL wanted to work off of between now and 2014 were 4 percent, 4 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.5 percent. The NFL made about 9.3 billion in revenue in 2009. A4 percent gain over that is an additional 320 million. A 7.5 percent gain? That's 700 million. The owners proposal would have them pocketing all of the 380 million difference. Again, that 7.5 percent growth is the average. The owners were proposing to make it a 4 percent growth target and - later in the deal when TV contracts were being renewed and huge sums were flowing in as a result and revenue shot up, the owners were going to cut the projected revenue growth to 2.5 percent. And that was in addition to the salary cap rollbacks the owners wanted to impose. Their 2011 proposed cap was 114 million per team. The last time there was a cap in was nearly 129 million per team. That's a 330 million savings league-wide on salaries in 2011 alone. Our friend Mike Florio goes into greater detail and complexity over at Profootballtalk.com on this and you'll find words like "peg" and "true up" that you can wow your friends with (or put them to sleep). But this plan for keeping the projected revenues artificially low and pegging the salary-cap numbers so that they were linked to the projected revenues and not the real revenue was a real killer for the players.