Brady, Manning and the CBA: 18 Games and Counting

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are both in the final year of their contracts this year. The NFL is spiraling towards a lockout in 2011 and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). There might be 18 games in the 2012 regular season. And it’s the all-important week three of the preseason where starters play most of the game.

First off, the ever-present, but not talked about as much as Darelle Revis’s holdout, contract negotiations. One would think this would be one of the summer’s biggest stories, aside from Albert Haynesworth and his conditioning test.

Of course, the two teams and two men under discussion are football-focused and generally mum to the media on any issues.

Tom Brady looks to bounce back this season, another year removed from his knee injury, and he has his favorite weapons of Moss and Welker, plus shiny new tight-ends and a healthy troupe of running backs.

If his young defense picks it up this season, even in a difficult division with a killer schedule, the Patriots should make the playoffs. Again.

And Manning is consistently very good, winning accolades and games. Brady has more rings and is younger, so he should probably be paid a bit more, but both players are looking at contracts upwards of $100 million.

So why haven’t the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts inked their franchise QBs to mega-million dollar deals?

Here are a few reasons:

1. Both teams want their star quarterbacks and are willing to fork up the cash, but both want to say their guy is the highest paid guy. Maybe Robert Kraft (Pats owner) and Jim Irsay (Colts owner) need to call each other up and pay them the exact same.

2. Jim Irsay forgot Peyton Manning is payed to play football. Irsay is so used to seeing Manning on TV in one of his million commercials, he thought he was an actor.

3. Bill Bellichick and Robert Kraft don’t like Tom Brady’s haircut and are hoping to ink a deal once he gets it cut.

4. Why pay a guy millions of dollars if you are just going to lock him out next year?

At least one of those reasons is a joke. The prospect of no football next year is not, however.

The NFL is one of the most successful companies in the country. And yes, it may be a game, but it is still a company in the business of making money.

The players want better health care, which they only receive for five years after retirement. Also, they don’t want to add two games to the season, partially because they are concerned about injury and partially because they won’t be paid extra for the extra games.

The owners want more money. No one goes to the preseason games, so they want more butts in the seats eating popcorn and drinking beer.

As for the lockout? No problem. The owners get paid big bucks next year whether we watch football on Sundays or re-runs of I Love Lucy.

The sides are only miles apart on the issues, and will grow further as the owners approved the “enhanced” season (AKA the 18 game one) today. That would have to be approved by the Players Union, and that’s looking like a big, fat “no” at the moment.

So how do we solve this quandary?

Some suggest a compromise of a 17-game season and 3 weeks of preseason. That won’t work because it’s not “fair”. Some teams would get two home games, others only one.

Okay, how about 17 and 2? And I bet if the owners lowered the price of the games, like baseball does for spring training, you would get more butts in the seats eating popcorn and drinking beer. That’s probably not going to happen.

The players might agree to the 18-game season if they are paid for it and their health benefits are increased. It also wouldn’t hurt to restructure the rookie salaries to be slotted like the NBA, allowing you to pay players based on their merit in the NFL as opposed to what they did in college.

Until this is all sorted out, expect delays on all contract negotiations, even the gimmes like Brady and Manning. And enjoy what football gives this season, we may have to wait another 18 months between this season’s Superbowl and the next season opener.

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