With the NFL lockout and its accompanying hand-wringing now stretching out into what experts estimate is its billionth month, it seems the tides are turning, with a collective-bargaining agreement reportedly within reach -- the deal's expected to be signed this week. The details are still unknown, but luckily, we happen to have an uncanny knack for these sorts of things. From retirement benefits to a rookie salary cap, here are our predictions.
On retirement health benefits: The owners stuck hard to their guns, insisting that players with fewer than three years of service should not receive health benefits after leaving the league. Players argued that injuries can permanently affect a former player's health, and the league needed to recognize its responsibility to those players.
Unfortunately, this dispute was set aside and forgotten by both sides, allowing Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to step in unnoticed and write a rambling six-page screed that touches on "Obamacare," the rising cost of movie tickets, the Casey Anthony murder trial and illegal immigration. Retirement health benefits will only be offered to players who are seen "getting their ass handed to them, because they need it probably."
On season length: Six games sounds about right.
On revenue sharing: Owners and players were both unhappy with the previous CBA's arrangement, which called for owners to keep $1 billion off the top of revenues, then split the rest with players 60-40, with the salary cap set at 40 percent of revenues (after the $1 billion). Then owners would divide their 60 percent plus $1 billion among themselves in a revenue sharing system that, critics say, was flawed by not considering stadium costs, which unbalanced the owners' financial standings. Meanwhile most teams didn't reach the salary cap, so players weren't seeing their full 40 percent (again, after the initial $1 billion deduction).
The new system greatly simplifies things: rather than dealing with set percentages, owners and players will now gather in Minneapolis's Metrodome every year on March 1, filling the stadium to the brim with league profits. They will then have 20 minutes to stuff their wallets, pockets and orifices with cash before Commissioner Roger Goodell, riding a black dragon, swoops in and burns all who remain, be they dead President, fat billionaire or athlete. The new CBA specifies that anyone bringing a sword to vanquish Goodell is subject to a harsh fine.
On player safety: The players' union has made safety a top priority in rewriting the CBA, since harmful hits have grabbed headlines in recent years. The owners might be more interested in just protecting marquee players, skeptics argue, because a concussion for Peyton Manning or a gruesome on-field death for Ben Roethlisberger (please, oh please) would be bad PR for the league.
The final version of the new CBA shows the compromise between the sides: player safety is protected with shorter off-season workouts, stricter penalties for causing injury and a greater emphasis on safety in mandatory day-long workshops. At the insistence of owners, however, the phrase "player safety" always appears in quotation marks.
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On a rookie salary cap: Players relented in the new CBA by allowing a set salary structure for incoming athletes. Owners said the measure was necessary to limit sky-high rookie contracts. In the new deal, rookies' salaries are widely expected to be tied to draft position. Fortunately for rookies, owners slipped up by giving cancerous radish Al Davis the task of writing the rookie cap rules. In his senility, Davis instead designed and sewed the Rookie Cap, a hat that all incoming players must wear and pass among themselves throughout their first season.
With these stunning changes, it's sure to be a fantastic season! Except for the Broncos. Sorry.