Dog Days in the Land of Cheese
It seems like an eternity since the Green Bay Packers ended their 2009 season in Phoenix. The Pro Bowl was moved up this year to the week before the Super Bowl and it was nice to see Aaron Rodgers get the starting nod for the National Football Conference. The NFC lost the game but Rodgers played very well, as he did for the Packers this past season. Cheeseheads can take delight that their young quarterback seemingly has a brilliant future in the NFL.
With the Super Bowl still a week away, what else is brewing in Titletown? Not much. No doubt the coaches and management are evaluating performance and assessing the talents and shortcomings of their 2009 players, but there is a storm cloud brewing over professional football. The problem is that the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL players union and management expires in 2010. The outcome of that issue affects Cheeseheads and all those who love the spectacle of pro football.
At stake is the National Football League’s annual revenue which is something like 8.5 billion dollars. Not much compared to the trillion-plus budget deficit established by our wonderful politicians in Washington, D. C., but nonetheless a lot of money. The players’ union currently collects about 60% of that pot with the owners taking home 40%, and there is the rub. How much each side pockets is up for negotiations and the last year of the labor agreement commences March 5.
There is so much money to be made by all, it is difficult to understand why a peaceful agreement and extension can’t be reached and maybe it shall, but I doubt it. If not, it gets complicated because the rules in the last year of the labor agreement change radically. Football fans will still have a collegiate draft to look forward to in April, but there will be fewer free agency signings. Also, juniors in college this year have declared in record numbers to become NFL draft eligible, fearing what ramifications future negotiations might mean to their financial status in the year 2011.
The Packers have a total of 13 unrestricted and restricted free agents who need to be dealt with in the near future, and some of the decisions are critical to their plight in 2010. Both starting offensive tackles, Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, are unrestricted free agents. Both are aging and battle-scarred, but methinks Ted Thompson better get them signed as the Packers really need to protect Rodgers and the talent level is not deep on the bench. Look for help in the draft to address this problem as well.
Beyond their offensive tackle problems, Ted Thompson has to decide what to do with a bunch of other unrestricted/restricted free agent players and it will get interesting. Aaron Kampman and Ryan Pickett are unrestricted free agents and Nick Collins is a restricted free agent. All three are good players whom I hope are re-signed. Daryn Colledge is a restricted free agent who may end up on his way out of Green Bay and I don’t think that would be a bad thing. There are lots more interesting personnel decisions to be made. Stay tuned.