NFL Lockout: Why the Lockout Means Longer Rebuilding Road for Denver Broncos

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Pat Bowlen (L), owner of the Denver Broncos, and Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy leave meetings at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. Representatives from the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) continue to negotiate a labor dispute during a 7 day extension of talks. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

In the NFL - NFLPA labor dispute, D-day has come and passed, twice.

When the first deadline approached Mar. 3, it was deemed that the league's owners and player's union had made substantial progress, warranting a week extension to Mar. 10.

And while the two sides were said to have been making progress, the formal negotiating process died when the NFLPA demanded the NFL's financials for 10 years, the league declined, and the Player's Union decertified last Friday.

League Council Jeff Pash announced the NFL was willing to give the players a less grueling offseason program, added benefits for retired players and that the NFL wouldn't increase the amount of games from 16-18 without the players' consent.

And NFLPA head man DeMaurice Smith disregarded Pash's comments saying, "Jeff only has a casual relationship with the truth," showing how heated and emotional these negotiations have become.

Smith also said, "We had decision makers in the room virtually every day. We had men from the executive committee, former players who sit on the executive committee and team reps in the room for 15 straight days. For most of that time, the NFL never had a decision maker in the room. On the last day of mediation, the National Football League proposed a deal that is -- quote -- the worst deal in the history of sports."

Even if the league were ready to give the players all that, one player fired back that what the league was offering them was "low hanging fruit" and the chief contentious point seems to remain the revenue sharing.

 

As the 2009 CBA stands, the players and owners split the $9 billion annually 50-50.

In 2009, that was $3.9 billion each, a 50-50 split in 2010 would have given players $4.5 billion, but the owners want 56 percent of the revenue, which would have left the players $4.1 billion in 2010.

The players aren't asking for more money, the owners are and the players are even willing to negotiate but they want to see the owners' books.

The players want to see proof that some owners and teams are in need of an increase in revenue--but the owners aren't willing to be transparent and share the valuable information to the degree the players argue they need.

And beyond that, new reports are saying the NFL wanted to make player salaries a fixed cost, meaning they wouldn't be able to share higher than expected revenue growth.

 

So the NFL reached a crossroads with the owners locking out the players and the player's union disbanding to allow players to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league individually.

Moving the battle from league offices with the NFL and NFLPA negotiating their own cases to the court room where lawyers from both sides now duke it out will seriously slow the process and it's likely the lockout will loom over the league creating gloom for much longer now.

 

What a lockout means

A lockout means teams' hands are tied as they are disallowed to operate in the important offseason.

There can be no signing of free agents, no trading players for players or draft picks for players, only trades of picks for picks are allowed.

Also, players aren't allowed to meet at team training facilities for offseason training programs or rehabilitation, nor can teammates practice together.

For the Denver Broncos, a team trying to rebuild from the bottom up, one attempting to restock its roster with players and reload with rookies who will need to learn, this lockout looming has many important implications.

 

What the lockout means for the Denver Broncos

To usher in the new era, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen brought in the two Johns (Elway and Fox) to lead the team back to the top as one of the elite franchises in football.

But this lockout is stopping the two men that are chomping at the bit to show they can build a winner in Denver.

Besides cleaning house by cutting dastardly defensive players, the Broncos can't change their roster until the draft.

And even then, once the Broncos select which players they believe will help grow the franchise, those rookies won't be able to train, practice or even discuss with their coaches schemes or plays.

It's a huge hindrance for a franchise that just struggled through its worst season in 48 years, one that needs to jettison more of their "talent" and add important players that can positively impact the team.

One such player is Kyle Orton, the veteran QB that enjoyed his best season last year, who has already been named the Broncos' starter.


While there's little doubt that Orton is the most complete quarterback on the Broncos roster, many close to the team believe naming Orton starter was nothing more than a ploy to raise his trade value (2nd or 3rd round pick).

Still, even Elway and Fox aren't completely sold on Tim Tebow starting immediately, and a prolonged lockout and litigation process increases the odds that Orton stays and starts.

Which is actually a tri-fold problem: 1) Orton isn't the future of the team, so using him as a "best available" fill-in is a temporary solution, 2) It takes valuable time and reps away from Tebow, delaying his development, and 3) The majority of the Broncos' fanbase will be frustrated if anyone other than Tebow lines up behind center.

 

And not only will the lockout hurt Denver's second-year "star" quarterback, it will hinder the entire team's ability to learn and grow together as a solid unit.

Orton/Tebow and the young receiving corps (E. Royal, D. Thomas, E. Decker) won't be able to work on learning the Broncos' new offense, let alone adjust to precise timing routes that are only perfected though repetition.

In fact, all players on both sides of the ball will be behind the eight ball whenever the season starts because they'll have to learn new packages, schemes and plays in a much more accelerated fashion than they are used to.

It's also likely that many players will be beyond rusty whenever football returns, they'll also be out of game-playing shape, which could mean more injuries and will almost certainly mean a poorer product on the field for fans.

After a 2010 season that saw an incredible rate of turnover in terms of player personnel (and coaching), much appears to be the same this season except Elway and Fox are hog-tied, unable to build the team they envision.

Basically, for a team that has hit rock-bottom in the Broncos, a franchise that was looking up at an intense and arduous rebuilding process already, a lockout that goes into May or June (or later) will almost certainly drag out Denver's down time by delaying the start of a new era.

 

Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com, a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com and a contributor to milehighreport.com writing on the Denver Broncos.

Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.

Please follow Rich Kurtzman on Facebook.

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