Top Ten 2010 Business of Football Stories: Part Two

Continuing our countdown of the top 10 business of football stories in 2010, here are numbers 5 through 1:

5. Vikings’ bubble burst

The crumpling of a couple panels of the Metrodome does what years of politicking have been unable to do: unlocks potential public funding for a new stadium. After public assistance to the University of Minnesota and the Twins, the Vikings have been waiting their turn at the trough for years. The matter will now be discussed in early 2011 with apparent conviction by the lawmakers.

The team’s season was a nightmare, after going “all in” in bringing back Brett Favre (and adding $3.5 million to his pay), acquiring (and firing) Randy Moss, firing Brad Childress and their travel odyssey the past few weeks. Their high payroll obviously did not meet expectations and the team has many tough decisions ahead.

4. Vick’s escalating value

In April he was third-string. In September he was second-string, playing behind a player who received a $12 million extension to be the face of the franchise. In December he is on the short list for MVP and elected the NFC starter in the Pro Bowl.

Michael Vick reluctantly agreed to a two-year deal with the Eagles in 2009. He played for $100,000 a game in 2009 and for $5.25 million plus incentives in 2010. As for 2011, his likely compensation will be the Franchise tag number of between $15-18 million, although there is a decent chance of a long-term deal with the Eagles.

With Andy Reid driving this signing from the outset, it is hard to see Vick playing elsewhere.

3. Quarterback megadeals, minideals and no deals

In a year where many of the top NFL quarterbacks were nearing the expiration of their contracts, teams handled their situations differently.

Tom Brady received his much-anticipated extension in August, a $48.5 million guarantee that places him only behind Sam Bradford in that category. In November, Donovan McNabb completed an extension with the Redskins that gives him an additional $3.5 million this season and an uncertain future beyond that.

As for Peyton Manning, he cut off negotiations during the season, meaning he will be a free agent in February. Colts ownership and management must feels confident about the continued existence of the Franchise tag in the new CBA, allowing them to hold onto Manning while negotiating what will be the largest contract in the history of football (or face enrollment in the witness protection program should they lose him).

Following Manning’s extension in the coming months will be that of Drew Brees – whose contract expires after 2011 – and perhaps Vick.

2. The Rolling Guarantee

As mentioned with McNabb’s contract, virtually all player contract extensions in 2010 were done with what I call a “rolling guarantee”, monies that trigger due to circumstances rather than locked in from the start of the deal.

Teams have the uncapped last year of the CBA as an excuse for these deals. Were the deals fully guaranteed from the start, the amounts would be reallocated back into the last Capped year, 2009, meaning teams would have had to have remaining Cap room to reallocate into, which none do.

Some of these “rolling guarantee” deals in 2010 were those of McNabb, the Jets’ D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis; the Broncos’ Elvis Dumervil and Kyle Orton; and the Chargers’ Marcus McNeill.

1. Labor pains

Once the NFL entered into this final year of the in March, urgency to negotiate a new agreement faded. The new deadline is March 3, 2011, although that may be fluid,

NFL ownership has been upset about the 2006 CBA since soon after it was signed. There is a feeling that the late Gene Upshaw forced that deal upon them, using the leverage of a pending year without a Cap (feared much more then than now) and homage to outgoing Commissioner Tagliabue.

The leverage is now in the owners’ hands. They want a different economic system; they want a change to the rookie pay system; they want an 18-game season; they want players to share in the economic risk. And I think they will get all of that.

The NFLPA and leader DeMaurice Smith are playing goalie, trying to protect what they have. They need to come out of this negotiation – whenever that is – with something to show their membership that improved upon what they had. That will be their challenge.

Here are other articles about the issues of the CBA, as this space hopes to be the go-to-place for all things NFL labor in 2011.

To all, thanks for your support in 2010 and wishing you and yours the happiest year ever in 2011!

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