- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

It’s D-Day in the NFL.

The failure of the league and its players association to reach a deal on an extension of their collective bargaining agreement left teams desperately maneuvering to get under the salary cap by today’s 10 p.m. deadline.

Some perennial stars are expected to be cut: future Hall of Fame linebackers Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Junior Seau of the Miami Dolphins, Pro Bowl offensive linemen Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs and Kevin Mawae of the New York Jets and former Super Bowl quarterback Kerry Collins of the Oakland Raiders.

The Denver Broncos yesterday cut star defensive end Trevor Pryce, tight end Jeb Putzier and running back Mike Anderson, who led the team in rushing last season.

The Washington Redskins will be hard-pressed to get down to the $95million cap even if they release quarterback Patrick Ramsey, defensive tackle Brandon Noble, cornerback Walt Harris, safety Matt Bowen, center Cory Raymer and kicker John Hall — all current or former starters.

The Redskins yesterday announced they had reworked the contract of quarterback Mark Brunell, saving an estimated $3 million. However, that still leaves the team about $17 million over the cap.

“Mark and other team members have worked cooperatively with us in renegotiations, approaching the matter like the veterans and team leaders that they are,’ Gibbs said.

Several veterans were working with the Redskins last night to free up salary cap, but the team had no other official announcements. One possibility was running back Clinton Portis, whose contract allows the team to restructure the deal. He is due more than $4.9 million in signing and bonus monies this year, and the Redskins could spread some of that money to later years to get breathing room this year.

Teams originally had until 4 p.m. to get under the cap, but last night the league changed the deadline by six hours.

The Redskins would face either a hefty fine from the league or lose draft picks if they are not able to get below the cap. If they do get below the cap, coach Joe Gibbs could be forced to field a team heavy on minimum-salary players and rookies this season.

“It has to be a very, very scary situation to be way over the cap and trying to redo contracts and get your money right, and yet you’re not exactly sure what effect the CBA is going to have on it,” said Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese, who is expected to cut longtime starting offensive tackle Brad Hopkins, among others. “But that’s our world, and that’s the way we have to live it.”

Talks between the league and the union to extend the collective bargaining agreement broke down Tuesday when the sides failed to agree on how to share revenue in future seasons.

The players reportedly have asked for 60 percent of total revenues, and the league offered 56.2 percent. That difference amounts to between $300million and $350million a year.

The owners will meet in New York today in an attempt to reach a last-minute agreement that would add $10 million to $15 million to the cap.

Barring such a deal, player contracts no longer would be allowed to increase by more than 30 percent from one year to next, forcing some difficult renegotiations around the league. In addition, teams no longer would be allowed to cut players after June1 and defer a prorated portion of a player’s bonus money to the next year’s salary cap.

Instead, all remaining bonus proration will count against the upcoming season’s cap as soon as a player is released, making some players who are due big bonuses — Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington is one — almost impossible to cut because of that unwieldy acceleration.

The salary cap would be eliminated if the collective bargaining agreement is not extended by this time next year, and NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw said a deal will be harder to reach after today.

“If they don’t like our proposal now, they really won’t like it when we go further out, because the price of poker goes up,” Upshaw said. “If the NFL has grown — and it has — as players we have to have our fair share. If we go to the uncapped year, we won’t come back.”

The negotiations are complicated by a division among the owners on how to share revenue, not with the union but among the teams.

Much of the league’s revenues — national television broadcast rights and merchandise sales, for example — are pooled and shared among the clubs.

However, owners of high-revenue teams have refused to share much of their increasing ancillary revenues — money from local broadcast deals, stadium naming-rights deals and sponsorships — with low-revenue teams and the NFLPA.

Those well-heeled owners have forced this labor showdown. If no labor agreement is reached and the salary cap is eliminated next season, the beneficiaries, in theory, would be the big-spending owners of high-revenue teams, such as the Redskins’ Dan Snyder.

Those owners would be able to outspend low-revenue teams in smaller markets, crippling the league’s prized parity.

“We need a deal because the competitive balance that exists in this league is directly related to the fact that we have a salary cap,” said Bill Polian, GM of the small-market Indianapolis Colts. “For the long-term health of the game, we need an extended CBA. All of the riches that have come to the game — nearly a quadrupling of the salary cap since 1993 — is due to the fact the system we currently have encourages competition from top to bottom.

“The Colts were 3-13 [in 1998], and we’ve been in the playoffs [an NFL-best] six out of the last [seven] years. Without a salary cap, we’d be hard pressed to be competitive, much less have that kind of record.”

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