Unfortunately for us gentlemen, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have been unable to agree on a way to increase the Pension Plan for retired players. The NFL proposed a new rookie wage scale for this year’s draft, with players paid a fixed amount based on draft slot. The NFLPA responded with its own rookie salary proposal, but tied it to a two-year extension of the current CBA. Both proposals would have used the money saved to increase retired player’s pensions.
Did the NFLPA really think the owners would go for a two year extension of the current CBA…….. Hell no, and that’s why they proposed it.
Both the Owners and the Active Players can now point fingers at each other and say they couldn’t get it done because the other side wouldn’t budge and of course, retired players got “sent to the rails” which in card playing terms means we lost all our chips and had to leave the game.
Now, with the draft less than 8 weeks away, the NFL has decided to continue using the current CBA structure for paying rookies. They feel safer having a bad system in place, then no system at all.
The current CBA states that “Nothing in this Agreement is intended to, or shall be construed to mean that any Rookie’s Salary is predetermined by any Allocation or Formula Allotment.”
Based on that language, the NFLPA could say there is nothing requiring the owners to pay these huge bonuses, but you can bet that if they suddenly stopped the practice, the NFLPA would cry “owner conspiracy” and they would probably be right. Fortunately, the Anti-Collusion provisions in the CBA are an excellent deterrent to that type of behavior.
The NFL owners don’t like paying unproven rookies this kind of money, but like it or not, they’re caught in a system they helped create. Last year they gave bonuses of over $100 Million… and that’s just to the top 3 draft picks! That was about the size of the pension increase Owners were talking about giving pre-1993 players.
In this high stakes poker game…….. three rookies trump 10,000 retired players that are vested in the NFL Pension Plan.
I just hope that the NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith has an Ace up his sleeve and can find a way to live up to his statement that “We have a moral obligation to the retired players, we have a fiduciary obligation to the retired players. That obligation has to be both in words and deeds. If you fail in either one, you fail.”
Retired players are hoping we get dealt a better hand the next round. We need “Bullets in the Hole.” If you’re not a card player, you’ll have to google that.
Jeff Nixon is a former Buffalo Bills player (1979-84) and is a columnist for Buffalo Sports Daily. He’s also the blog moderator for a blog on behalf of former NFL players called Fourth & Goal Unites. Be sure to check it out.