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Labor Dispute: What if the Players Win?

Unlike the hockey commercials, the answer is not "History will be made."

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio puts forth an interesting case that what the players are asking for is for the restrictions allowed by a collective bargaining agreement to be disallowed. In short, "no rules, no draft, and no limits on free agency." And one thing I find hard to believe... It pushed me into agreeing with Roger Goodell on something.

First, I'll put this out there: I find it extremely hard to believe the players (the original filers in the Brady antitrust case) want to wipe the entire slate clean. I'd like to think even they realize what happens if there's no CBA, and they realize the competitive balance it brings. Let's not forget the owners were the ones that wanted a new CBA, not the players. If the players were looking to whack the entire concept, wouldn't they have made the first move? 

I'll add this from Florio's piece, because it clears it up more than I can.

In fairness, the 10 players who have filed the Tom Brady antitrust lawsuit against the NFL do not argue that the 2011 draft is illegal. (The plantiffs in the Carl Ellercase, which has been consolidated with the Brady case, are indeed attacking the draft as illegal.) But that's only because the expired labor deal contemplated that there will be a draft in 2011. Via rookie linebacker Von Miller, the incoming rookies are attacking any restrictions or rules regarding the money paid to the 2011 draft picks. By next year, if the lawsuit is still pending (and it very well could be), we fully expect the players to add a member of the 2011 draft class, who'll claim that the draft violates the antitrust laws, too.

In for an inch, in for a mile, I suppose.

Just to paint a clearer picture, let's see what happens if you take out the player provisions of the CBA:

No draft: No draft order, no draft picks, no draft requirements. In short, thirty-two teams each have a shot to sign every single top player in the nation, be it college, junior college, high school, semi-pro, whichever.

No "free agency" limits: Well of course all the players not signed would be free agents. But there'd be no exclusive rights, no restricted free agents, no tags.

No salary cap: The players would be happy initially because no cap means they're no longer restricted by what their peers are signed for; there's no master number to squeeze under. The owners, on the flip side, have no floor to worry about, so they can afford to be as cheap or as spendy as they wish to be. And with no restrictions on players, there might be a movement towards the cheaper player and away from the high salary. The superstars would still be signed, but gone would be the days of a holdout if a scrub can be signed for far cheaper.

The possibility exists that because there's no salary cap, if a player wants insurance benefits or health coverage, he'd need that written into his individual contract. Something that was part of the CBA like that would take a piece out of his contract.

Goodell's reaction is this:

"They're challenging fundamental aspects that have made the league successful and popular with the fans. ... We think they've been good for the players, the clubs and, most importantly, the fans. It's what's created a successful product. So the union attorneys are attacking everything that we think has made the league successful."

I agree a balanced playing field for all sides like the CBA is intended to provide helps make the league successful.

Steven Jackson:

"We are challenging his lockout of players and fans. How could he miss that?"

Half-right, because if the players win, it could be a slippery slope. Maybe Goodell's thinking too far ahead in his quote.

So with that, I'll turn it over to you with this: How do you perceive a lawless or limitless NFL would operate? Would it be better or worse for the league? Sound off!