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Posted: Tuesday March 24, 2009 9:38AM; Updated: Tuesday March 24, 2009 11:58AM
Peter King Peter King >
MONDAY MORNING QB - TUESDAY

DirecTV deal is lockout insurance

Story Highlights

New deal ($1 billion per season for 2011-14) gives NFL more leverage over NFLPA

Deal will give owners a war chest and pay even if lockout cancels games in 2011

Readers sound off on fairer OT rules, NFL coverage in a bad economy, and more

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Roger Goodell's message to the NFLPA: Get a new CBA done before the 2010 season or the bargaining will be much tougher.
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
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DANA POINT, Calif. -- In securing an incredible rights fee from DirecTV to air games on satellite TV -- $1 billion per year from 2011 through 2014 -- the league got something far more valuable than money alone. The NFL got lockout insurance.

Even if games are not played in 2011, the NFL's deal with DirecTV calls for the league to be paid the billion-dollar rights fee, a source close to the talks told SI.com here at the league meetings.

That certainly won't drive the league away from the bargaining table with new NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith when negotiations begin this spring, but it will give the owners a powerful strike fund of approximately $31 million per team in 2011.

The league's current deal with DirecTV runs through the 2010 season. By announcing the new satellite deal so far in advance of its effective date, and by quietly publicizing that the rights fees in a bad economy have grown from $700 million a year to $1 billion, the NFL is showing the players that it has a war chest and won't be pressured into making a deal it doesn't want just for the sake of avoiding a work stoppage in 2011.

This will be a huge factor in the looming negotiations, one that clearly will make the league not as desperate to resolve a simmering dispute with the players that began when owners opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement last year.

The NFL will have uninterrupted business as usual through the 2011 draft, 25 months from now. The next two seasons -- one with a salary cap this year, and one without a cap in 2010 -- will be held whether a new deal is struck or not. But without a new labor contract, the league presumably would lock the players out of training camp in 2011.

At these meetings, commissioner Roger Goodell has begun to lay out how advantageous it would be for players to get a deal done before the uncapped year in 2010. Veterans would have to have six years of credited service to be free agents instead of the current four; veterans with three to five years of experience would be restricted free agents. In addition, the top eight teams from the 2009 season would have significant free-agency restrictions; they'd be unable to sign free agents until they lost unsigned players of equal or higher value than the one they want to sign to another team.

DirecTV airs all Sunday afternoon games exclusively on satellite on its NFL Sunday Ticket package.

***

Now for your e-mail:

APPLES AND ORANGES, RUSS. From Russ Jones of Albuquerque, N.M.: "PETER! You're killing me with this coin toss thing and to suggest that each team get an equal shot is flawed logic. During regulation, do both teams get equal possessions? Where's the hue and cry to change quarters of football to innings so that way there's equality?''

Which contest would you say is more inequitable, Ross? One team getting one possession and the other getting none, or one team getting 13 possessions and the other team getting 12?

ONLY ONE THING WRONG WITH THIS. From Matt Cafaro of Athens, Ga.: "Fixing overtime is the easiest thing imaginable: Follow the old NHL rules, which were fair. Every regular season game plays a full extra period if it ends in a tie at four quarters. If the game remains tied after this extra period, it's a tie. Deal with it. For playoff games, you do as hockey does in the playoffs. You keep playing full quarters, until there is a winner. You could go to six or seven 'quarters,' but you get a winner without having to compromise to the college solution.''

The problem is that players don't want to add a full quarter to the season, which, as I explained Monday, is likely to be increased by a game or two in the near future. If the league goes to 18 games -- which I think would be a disaster because of the increased injury factor -- and if a team plays two overtime games in that season, the team would be playing 2.5 more games than it's playing now. That's 16 percent more football in a league in which injuries are already at high levels. Not going to fly.

HMMMMM. From Bruce Grossberg of Forest Hills, N.Y.: "Overtime: Instead of focusing on each team having a possession, why not focus on the unfairness of the coin flip? Why can't there be a 100-yard dash for possession, or the longest throw, or a "punt-off" for possession? Something quick, but something that would be less arbitrary than a coin flip.''

I actually like that. Eliminate the capricious coin flip in favor of something that would demonstrate one team's superiority over the other.

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