The NFL is a business and the players know it

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Only one draft pick from the 2016 NFL Draft remains unsigned, Joey Bosa. Bosa was the 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft by the San Diego Chargers. But the two sides have been unable to come to an agreement on contract terms and the standoff has continued for months.

Until today. When the Chargers released a statement saying they have pulled their “best offer”. According to the statement this offer included an initial signing bonus larger than any in the past two drafts, more money in 2016 than any rookie other than Carson Wentz, and the “largest payment and the highest percentage of signing bonus received in the first calendar” of any Chargers first-round pick since the adoption of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement in 2011. Furthermore, the Chargers indicated in their statement that part of the reason the contract was being pulled at this time was because that offer reflected Bosa’s potential contributions over a 16 game season, but given the lack of a signed contract and Bosa’s absence from the team, it is not expected Bosa will be able to contribute over an entire season.

The standoff appears to be over monetary payments. Bosa and his camp want his full bonus ($17 million) paid by the end of the calendar year and do not want offset language which would allow the Chargers to not have to pay Bosa for his fifth year option should they decide to not pick up that option. No offset language would allow Bosa to earn money from his new team while still getting his money from the Chargers. The Chargers obviously do not want to have to pay a player who is no longer on their roster.

The new NFL collective bargaining agreement in 2011 was supposed to clear up issues with rookie contracts and end rookie holdouts by establishing a rookie salary scale and limits on bonuses. But terms such as offset language and payment dates remain something to be negotiated and continue the possibility for rookie holdouts.

But this issue is larger than the schedule of monetary payments and if a player should be paid for his full contract even if he is no longer on the team. Players are increasingly realizing that the NFL is a business and feel entitled to their fair share of the profits. Especially as the ongoing issues with the NFL and traumatic brain injuries continues. NFL players understand that their playing days do not last forever so they must capitalize on what limited time they have to play, particularly because they don’t know when those days may end. So they want to be protected and to be able to provide for themselves after they can no longer play.

This is difficult for the NFL because the players are commodities. They hold value so long as they can still play and make sense fiscally for the team. The Chargers are right in not wanting to pay Bosa so much money upfront and to not want to pay him if he is no longer on the team. Bosa is right in wanting to feel appropriately compensated for his playing efforts and to try to protect himself in case of injury or other instances which make him unable to play.

Therein lies the problem. Neither side is wrong. And both sides are counting on the fact that each side needs the other. There is a reason the Chargers had the 3rd pick in the draft and selected Bosa. There is a reason Bosa is looking for so much money under specific terms. The Chargers need Bosa and Bosa needs the Chargers. They’re both waiting for the other to blink. In the past this has always been the player(s), whether between individual players and a franchise or between the NFLPA and the NFL.

The holdout of one pick does not signify that the balance of power is shifting, or that it is even close to shifting. The NFL and its franchises hold the ultimate power over the players, as signified by recent events involving the NFL and Deflategate as well as the NFL and drug allegations against players. But increasingly the NFL does not hold a monopoly over information which may give players leverage. And as the players become more cognizant of their NFL mortality the NFL becomes increasingly limited in their monopoly.

It’s all a business and both sides are trying to win.

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