The first group of NFL players impacted by the lockout are the Free Agents. Guys who do not have a contract with any team and cannot sign one until there’s a new agreement. This is a pretty large group of currently unemployed gents.
April 6th is circled anxiously on their calendars. That’s the day the judge in Minnesota will either lift the lockout or allow it to continue. If she lifts it, there’s still plenty of time for the free agents to find new teams and get a nice bonus tossed at them. If the lockout stays in place, then each passing day of its existence reduces their chances at the cashier’s window.
For the 49ers, the players who would be impacted most are Abrayo Franklin, Manny Lawson, and Alex Smith. These three guys all had visions of big paydays and new teams in 2011. An extended lockout, however, reduces their value to other teams and makes them valuable only to their current team. They will have to sign one year deals with the 49ers and try their luck again next year.
It’s players like these that will put a lot of pressure on the non-union NFLPA suits to get a new CBA signed ASAP.
Another affected group is the players who get drafted this year and the ones who don’t, but would otherwise have a chance as Undrafted Free Agents. The drafted players are looking at zero impact rookie years and the UFAs are looking at a year of unemployment, coupled with having to compete for a job next year with the UFAs of that year, reducing their NFL chances by half.
It looks to me like the players have ten days to ask themselves if they feel lucky. Not only might they lose their shirts on April 6th, but the NLRB might also rule that their decertification is a sham and disallow it. That’s two crippling scenarios. There is no scenario that would cripple the owners.
The natural inclination of Joe Average Fan is to side with players in any battle with ownership fat cats. The leadership of the players this year has managed to bungle that PR edge completely. Fans are not on the side of the players at this moment in time. Quite the opposite. The fateful buck for this bungle resides on the desk of DeMaurice Smith. Personally speaking, I’d have some suspicions about any guy who tries to gussie up his ordinary name like this guy has. “DeMaurice” and “Smith” do not belong together. “Alex” and “Smith” are a solid combination, Smithly speaking. But DeMaurice is a red flag. So is the cheap gangster fedora. I’m getting identity crisis vibes. Pompous or punk. He can’t decide.
This guy apparently sold himself to the players because he had connections on Capitol Hill. That the players were impressed with this, speaks litagatory volumes. Former NFLPA president Gene Upshaw was a former NFL player who understood the value of the player/owner partnership. This guy seems to have convinced the players that the chickens can own and run the hen house. Should this notion prove false, and it could on April 6th, DeMaurice will become DeHeadless and DeHatless in a very short time.
This is DeMerit Skeeberton, reporting from the barnyard.