The games will go on and the salary cap will remain, but our readership still has mixed feelings over the NFL's newest labor agreement.
While the owners have found a way to divide revenue among themselves and the players have culled a few additional eggs from the golden goose, the fans walked away with little more than a guarantee of a few uninterrupted seasons of football. And while that is a welcome gift for some NFL junkies, others suspect there is a lump of coal hidden in the fine print.
Specifically higher ticket prices.
Amid all the talk of not killing the golden goose and obese amounts of new cash being shuffled back and forth, our readers noticed something interesting: Rarely did anyone ever talk about giving some of the loot back to the fans. Which is a good point. After all, you can bet owners are going to try and keep their profit margins just as stout as they have been, and the new television money isn't going to pay for all of the extra revenue going to the players in the next few seasons.
And while most everyone seems happy that the new collective bargaining agreement got worked out, a healthy percentage of readers – about 75 percent of those who wrote in about the deal – wish they could have flexed their muscles at the negotiating table. Along with the draft, such consternation overwhelmed the mailbag over the last week.
I love to hear fans sticking up for themselves, and I'm more than happy to print the letters. So keep them coming. And as always, be sure to include you first and last name as well as your city and state when you make submissions. My comments are in italics.
To the mail …
LABOR PEACE ("Looking out for No. 1," March 8, 2006)
Let's all be real happy that super-rich owners and super-rich players have found a way to stay super-rich together. Too bad it's at the expense of the rest of us, who can no longer afford to take our kids to the games. It shouldn't cost $600 to take your family to one football event. One day, maybe they'll remember that some of the revenue comes from the fans.
I enjoyed your story about the NFL's new deal, you made it sound like a win-win deal for all, and it probably is for all involved in the negotiations. Unfortunately for us fans, we didn't have a seat in negotiations nor a vote. I would bet most of us would agree both sides protected their outrageous incomes, and left us paying the bills: too-high ticket prices and grossly inflated prices for everything associated with the NFL.
Actually, fans do have a vote. Read the next email.
Just read through your article heaping praise on NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue for brokering the new labor agreement, but here's one tidbit for you (and everyone else involved in professional sports for that matter): What if, and that's a very big if, the fans were organized and boycotted sports? That would be where the real power lies. It will never happen because most fans are just plain apathetic, but it should happen.
What do you think actually gets head coaches fired? It's attendance, more than any other thing. Boycotting would be a very powerful act for those trying to bring ticket prices back to Earth. But you are right – it will never happen.
You mention that with the new NFL deal everyone is smiling – not us fans, dude. Once again, we have been crunched by the mega dollar!
Joe Ferrara Jr.
The players and owners can GO TO HELL.
Yes Mr. Robinson, everybody wins. Except the fan that now must pay higher prices for tickets that are already over-priced and higher concession stand prices. The common man can't just get his wages increased by saying that the price of tickets went up so my wages must go up. We are fast approaching the point where the average fan can only attend one or two games a year, or none, so when does the golden goose start to die?
A lot of people say that David Stern is the best commissioner in professional sports, but Paul Tagliabue just made a very good case as to why he holds that title – stopping your league from becoming the monstrosity that Major League Baseball can be at times with "star teams." Keep the playing field as even as possible. My hat is off to you, Mr. Tagliabue.
New Albany, Miss.
Unfortunately the smart, intuitive, creative, and higher money-making owners now need to share with those lazy individual owners that have no idea how to run an NFL franchise. Kudos to those top-end owners for signing off on this as they also had the option of going no cap and burying those lifeless individuals.
P-Tag is my savior! I've been listening to my husband whine and complain about the labor negotiations for days now, and it's finally subsided all because of P-Tag.
Paul Tagliabue should be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame for everything he has done to turn this league into what it is. Completely skip the required time out of the league – he should be in there now. When all hope was lost he provided a pulse and was the defibrillator bringing it all back to life. This league would be so different without him.
Actually, there isn't a waiting period to enshrine a commissioner into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
NFL DRAFT ("Free agency fallout," March 15, 2006)
You're a bonehead! What National Football League are you writing about? Half of your mock draft is absolutely insane. Do you even bother to read about what each team needs or did you just draw names out of a hat?
I throw darts.
I thought you were going to keep this mock draft updated week by week?
Every two weeks.
Just wondering when Brian Calhoun of Wisconsin is slated to be drafted. I saw him a few times this season and think he's going to be a very pleasant surprise for some NFL team.
Calhoun had an average combine, running his 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds and finishing in the middle of the pack in most of the running back drills. He's widely considered a mid-second to mid-third round pick.
Trust me. The Cincinnati Bengals won't be taking no 341-pound fat boy.
Word is that even if Ron Dayne re-signs, the Broncos will be looking for a running back late in the first day of the draft. Considering Denver offered Jamal Lewis a contract, the running back situation clearly isn't settled. Word is that they are open to trading Bell for the right price. If either DeAngelo Williams or LenDale White slips to the 22nd pick, the Broncos would give them strong consideration depending what other players were still on the board.
How come one guy (Mario Williams) has an "eye-opening" time in the 40 (4.66) at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, but another guy who is 6-7 and 258 pounds (Leonard Pope) has only a "good" 40 clocking at 4.60?
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Because you're talking about a 40-pound difference. That's significant. In Williams, you're talking about a guy who is a biscuit short of 300 pounds. When a guy of that length and weight runs anything south of 4.9 seconds, it's unusually fast.
Do you foresee Charlie Whitehurst being a second-round pick or a second-day pick?
Whitehurst is probably a third-round pick.
How about Derek Hagan going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of the first round? They could use a solid complement to Hines Ward. The main knock on him was that he won't be able to blow by people like he did in college. He answered his critics at the combine by busting a low 4.4 in the 40.
Actually, the best time I heard for Hagan in the 40 was a 4.45. Still, he did have a good combine in terms of measurables, but he really hurt himself when he went through pass-catching drills and dropped a bunch of balls. He had the same problems at the Senior Bowl. There is no way he goes in the first round. Mid-second to third round looks more realistic.
Where do you have Ryan O'Callaghan from Cal going?
A good Senior Bowl week is thought to have elevated O'Callaghan to late second-round status.
What about Eric Winston from Miami? I see him in the first round on just about everybody's board but yours.
Winston had a solid Senior Bowl and good combine, but there are split opinions about whether he or Auburn's Marcus McNeill is the third best tackle in this draft. I wouldn't be shocked to see Winston taken in the last 10 picks of the first round, but I think McNeill is going to end up pushing him to the top of Round 2 – possibly to the Houston Texans.
What about D.J. Shockley? Is there any discussion about him being a potential NFL wide receiver since the talk seems to be that he is a great all-around athlete but not a "tested" quarterback? Remember another former Georgia quarterback that made that transition – Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward.
Shockley might get a shot at quarterback, but he wasn't very consistent in the practices leading up to the Senior Bowl. Like Ward, I still think he's going to end up as a wideout.
What about Bowling Green's Omar Jacobs? I know he's been put in the fourth round by some, but I think he's got the size, arm strength and versatility to make some NFL team very happy.
Jacobs actually had a pretty good showing at the combine. He made a lot of the throws that scouts wanted to see, and he has a decent arm. But his sidearm throwing motion is killing him. Clearly, all the hype about him possibly being a top-five pick in 2007 was vastly overblown. But Jacobs is going to make a good project for some team that takes him on the draft's second day. He's likely a fourth-round pick at best.