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NFL talks arrive at impasse

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Negotiations between the NFL and the players association about how to share revenue broke down yesterday, three days before the start of free agency.

"We're deadlocked," NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw told the Associated Press. "There's nowhere to go. There's no reason to continue meeting."

Upshaw and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue spent the last three days discussing an extension to the collective bargaining agreement between the league and union, which expires next year.

Tagliabue notified clubs that a special league meeting will be held tomorrow in New York to "explain how the NFLPA is overreaching and why we have been unable to come to an agreement on an extension," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Aiello also said no new talks are scheduled and that free agency would not be postponed.

The players reportedly asked to receive 60 percent of total revenues, and the league offered 56.2 percent. Upshaw said he would recommend at next week's annual NFLPA meeting that the union decertify, setting the stage for a strike in 2007.

If the 12-year-old CBA is not extended, the salary cap would be eliminated in 2007, destroying the prized parity that has set the NFL apart from baseball. If the salary cap is eliminated, the players are unlikely to agree to one again.

The failure to reach an agreement on an extension also leaves teams in a difficult position days before the free agent signing period begins, with teams and agents uncertain how to structure contracts and some teams struggling to get below the salary cap under revised rules.

If the CBA is not extended, the June 1 rule that allows players to be cut after that date with just the prorated bonus counting against the cap in that year would be eliminated. And contracts would not be allowed to increase by more than 30 percent from one year to the next.

Those changes would pose a problem for a team like the Washington Redskins, who are $20 million over the cap.

The Redskins have few high-salary players whose contracts could be easily renegotiated under the 30 percent rule and few others who could be cut without the team taking huge hits in accelerated bonus money in the absence of the June 1 rule.

The situation is complicated by a disagreement among owners about revenue sharing.

Teams with lower revenues, mostly small-market teams, say they will be forced to pay a much higher proportion of their non-television and ticket revenue into the players' fund if those contributions are divided equally among the teams. The higher-revenue, large-market teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys and Redskins, disagree.

However, the Redskins and Denver Broncos are the only teams among the eight clubs more than $5 million over the cap that also are considered to be among the hard-line, large-market teams in the internal battle on further revenue-sharing.

The Redskins and Broncos apparently had agreed to modify their positions to get a deal done to ease their cap situation for 2006. Redskins owner Dan Snyder declined to comment. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was unavailable to comment.

An agreement on revenue sharing would allow the NFL to present a united front in its talks with the NFLPA.

Agent Leigh Steinberg, who represents Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, met with Eric Schaffer, the team's director of football administration, Friday in Indianapolis.

However, Steinberg and Schaffer failed to renegotiate the quarterback's contract, which counts for $5.4333 million this year, in order to give the Redskins some cap relief.

Schaffer is also negotiating with the agents for guard Randy Thomas ($4.912 million) and linebacker LaVar Arrington ($12.046 million, including a $6.5 million roster bonus) among others in hopes of easing the salary cap bind.

Notes -- Redskins safety Sean Taylor expanded his defense team for his March 20 trial in Miami by hiring attorneys Richard Sharpstein and Larry Handfield at the request of his father, Florida City police chief Pedro Taylor.

Holdover attorney Edward Carhart and Sharpstein once worked together in the state's attorney's office. Both sides will report to Judge Mary Barzee on Friday about their preparations for trial. Carhart expects to call four or five witnesses and believes the state will call six.

Taylor faces three felony assault charges, each of which could lead to 15 years in jail, and one simple battery charge that carries up to an additional year. The charges stem from an incident in June in which Taylor said three men, who are among the state's witnesses, stole two of his all-terrain vehicles.