Revenue sharing will play key role in settlement

Updated: March 7, 2006, 11:37 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Shaun Alexander is back with Seattle, LaVar Arrington is on the market and Kerry Collins is in limbo.

So are many other players who must await the outcome of the owners meetings in Dallas before they know where they will be when free agency finally starts.

There was no deal following the latest round of "it's done, it's not done" reports Sunday. On Monday, it was clear the decision would come down to whether the owners would accept a revised revenue sharing, an issue for which they've been squabbling among themselves for more than two years.

The NFL will submit the union's latest request for about 60 percent of total revenues to the 32 owners and let them decide whether they will accept it, extending the agreement which runs out after the 2007 season.

The Washington Post cited league sources in reporting in its Tuesday editions that commissioner Paul Tagliabue would endorse the proposed labor settlement, but a league spokesman denied to the newspaper that this would happen at the meetings, which are scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon (3 p.m. ET) and could extend into Wednesday.

Gene Upshaw, the president of the NFL Players Association, told the Post he thinks the commissioner favors a settlement.

"Everyone wants to know if he's going to endorse it," the newspaper quoted Upshaw as saying. "My main issue is that he presents it. He doesn't get a vote. The owners have the votes. [But] if he didn't support it, you wouldn't think he'd be presenting it."

If there is no agreement, the future is unclear. What is clear is that the 2007 season would go on without a salary cap, with wild spending by some teams and little spending by others.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones, who has been opposed to revenue sharing, reiterated that Monday.

"I'm not happy with the proposal. I didn't think that we would be entertaining the kinds of propositions that we got from the players. I'm not happy with it at all," he said. "As you well know, I don't think anyone particularly cares how happy I am."

Upshaw has contended all along that the revenue-sharing dispute among the owners must be solved first. And Buffalo defensive back Troy Vincent, the NFLPA's president, said: "I don't know how we can get an agreement unless we deal with the entire picture."

But revised revenue sharing hasn't been discussed in these negotiations until now, although it has long been a major point of contention among the owners.

"We've put together a term sheet that will be presented to the owners, and then it's up to them," Upshaw told the Post. "It's either yes or no. There's no more negotiating on either side. I'm done after this. Paul is done."

Kevin Mawae, who had been the New York Jets' player representative until he was cut Sunday, said Monday that the players had thought this is the way it would end.

"I think it's playing out exactly like we thought it would," he said. "We said as a union that in order for free agency to go off without a hitch, the owners would have to figure out how to divide up the revenue. It's not necessarily the percentage that we're asking but how they spread the wealth."

That is what the argument will be about Tuesday among the owners.

Low-revenue teams such as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Indianapolis say high-revenue teams -- Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia, for instance -- should contribute proportionately to the player pool because they can earn far more in nonfootball income such as advertising and local radio rights. Those high-revenue teams might contribute only 10 percent of their outside money compared with 50 percent or more for low-revenue teams.

If the long-term debate continues, there is unlikely to be a contract extension.

If there is no agreement, the salary cap for 2006 will be $94.5 million. If there is a deal, it could be as much as $10 million higher.

That disparity is why so many players are on the bubble right now.

On Sunday night, when it looked as if talks had broken down and the lower figure would be in effect, the Raiders released Collins to save $9.2 million in cap money. When Tagliabue, who had already extended the free agent deadline once, extended it again from Monday to Thursday, Oakland pulled back its quarterback, saying, in effect: "No, Kerry is still a Raider."

Seattle, meanwhile, did the expected and re-signed Alexander, the NFL's MVP last season, for $62 million over eight years, with $15.1 million guaranteed.

"Fair is fair," the running back said. "I know what fair is. Other teams don't decide what fair is. I think the Seahawks definitely know."

The Redskins, more than $20 million over the $94.5 million, got rid of $9 million by allowing three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington to buy out is contract. That is a very unusual move in the NFL, indicating his agents, Carl and Kevin Poston, think he can get a big contract elsewhere. But that, of course, will depend on the final salary cap figure.

If the owners can reach agreement in Dallas -- both with the union and among themselves -- Arrington can get a lot of money. If not, he and many players may be working for a lot less than they think they are worth.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.