Posted: 5:30 a.m.
When the NFL owners meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the latest proposal from the NFL Players Association, we should know pretty quickly if any progress is being made on a collective bargaining agreement.
If the owners head home from Dallas some time Tuesday, figure the deal is all but dead and the NFL financial year begins at 12:01 a.m. Thursday with free agency, a $94.5 million salary cap, and no salary cap for 2007.
If they stay over into Wednesday, that should indicate that they have hurdled the first major issue of what to pay players and have moved on to grappling with the big elephant in the room known as revenue sharing for lack of a better term.
Well, apparently now only the big-revenue owners are calling it "revenue sharing." The small-revenue owners prefer "cost-exporting," or "cost-bearing."
A faction of small-revenue owners led by Jacksonville's Wayne Weaver of which the Bengals' Mike Brown is a member believes it can't remain competitive if the yearly salary cap is determined by all revenue generated by all teams without help from the big markets.
The crux of their argument is that the big-team revenues spawned by stadiums, merchandising, and other streams that have been added to this CBA are going to drive up the cap costs for the smaller markets. For instance, teams in Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis will share the cost of the roster for teams like the Redskins, Patriots and Cowboys, but they won't share the revenue.
Or, as the Weaver coalition sees it, the big-market teams would simply be bearing the responsibility for their part in driving up revenues.
It's not as easy as a small-market, big-market line in the sand, either. Green Bay is 10th in revenue and is aligned with the Dallas-Washington-New York axis. Pittsburgh is the No. 22 market in the country, but their huge fan base has accounted for more than 40 percent of NFL merchandise sales in money that has previously been unshared. And Steelers owner Dan Rooney is trying to work with both sides.
So "revenue sharing" is only what the outsiders are calling it. Some big-revenue owners call it "revenue stealing." The small-revenue owners call it "cost bearing." Or maybe "cost responsibility" is better.
Whatever they call it, there are reports that the issue hasn't even been addressed by the owners yet as they sit down to review the NFLPA's latest proposal.
They are still apparently trying to get their hands around the 59.5 percent figure the NFLPA wants as the players' portion of the expanded revenue pool that now includes stadium and merchandising streams. There are owners that are apparently apprehensive about that number, which could make for a short meeting.
There is some hope that the owners would approve a CBA without a cost responsibility plan, but the Weaver faction would appear to have the votes to quash a deal. A new CBA could mean as much as a $105 million cap in '06, and the small-revenue teams believe they can't absorb that hit without some help.
Whatever happens, it won't be easy. But we should get an idea early.
HEALTHY MARKET: Even though the league is in economic flux and free agency doesn't start for two more days, there have been some deals for players recently released. Most notably, defensive tackles have moved quickly, with former Cowboy La'Roi Glover signing a three-year deal in St. Louis and Chris Hovan re-signing for five in Tampa Bay.
Plus, the agent for Sam Adams reports his client is in Miami on Tuesday talking to the Dolphins and has also received interest from his old team in Baltimore. Angelo Wright said Adams would still like to play for head coach Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, but the market is moving rapidly at that position.
"I think what a lot of teams are going to end up doing is re-doing the deal next year," Wright said. "Because, let's face it, they're going to get (a CBA) at some point. But a market has definitely been set."
The Bengals have been focused in signing a veteran backup quarterback and extending their offensive line beyond 2006.
QB MOVES: Current backup quarterback Jon Kitna's reported competition for a job with the Jets includes names that could surface in Cincinnati, although Gus Frerotte can probably be crossed off the list.
The New York Daily News reports that Frerrote and Kitna, who had a forgettable training camp derby here in 2002, are two guys the Jets are considering, as well as the Redskins' Patrick Ramsey, the Dolphins' Sage Rosenfels, and the Cardinals' Josh McCown.
Ramsey, a former No. 1 pick, figures to get cut by the Redskins. Like Kitna, Ramsey and McCown would no doubt be attracted to a spot that looks to be wide open at least for this year now that lame duck incumbent Chad Pennington has taken a 66 percent pay cut. Next year is another story since the Jets are thought to be taking a quarterback with the fourth pick in the draft.
The Ravens are supposedly not as hot on Kitna and the Baltimore Sun is reporting they have interest in the Raiders' Kerry Collins.