The Emotional Nature of Collective Bargaining

Before last year, players could become unrestricted free agents after four seasons…That changed last year when the NFL entered the final year of the CBA as an uncapped year in 2010. Instead of four years needed to become a UFA, it turned to six, and that affected Colon. He lost millions in a potential long-term contract as an unrestricted free agent. Instead, Colon was restricted and signed a one-year tender for $2,198,000, then was lost for the season when his Achilles ruptured in June.

Woodley also was affected monetarily by the uncapped year, in which he earned a salary of $550,000. Under normal circumstances, with one year left on his contract entering 2010, the Steelers would have signed him to a multi-year, multi-million contract extension with a big signing bonus. But because of the rules changes in the final year of the CBA, any new contract would limit salary increases of no more than 30 percent annually, and 30 percent of $550,000 was not in the neighborhood that Woodley had since resided.

During the last NFL labor negotiations the owners cleverly loaded the final years of the contract with terms that were extremely favorable to them.  Unfortunately for the owners, this is now what is fresh in the players’ minds (thank you, availability bias!) The players do not want to get taken advantage again. (Also, they’d like to be properly compensated for the high probability that they’ll die or lose most of their cognitive ability before age 50.)  Just another reason why the current labor dispute may be more hostile and drawn out than people expect.