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Big Teams, Small Teams Still at Odds On Sharing

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page D04

The NFL's team owners met yesterday in Atlanta to try to resolve their differences over revenue-sharing issues that are the major impediment to completing an extension of the league's labor agreement with the players' union.

The meeting came the day after the league announced that it had completed new television contracts with ESPN and NBC. The completion of the TV deals led players association chief Gene Upshaw to say Monday that he's certain the collective bargaining agreement will be extended, although he declined to offer a timetable.

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Upshaw and the union, though, are seeking major changes to the league's economic system in these labor talks, and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue must find a way to get the owners to agree to a revenue-sharing plan. Owners of some wealthy franchises have resisted proposals in which they would share more of their locally generated revenues with less prosperous teams.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after yesterday's meeting, according to the Associated Press, that the session had produced "a lot of good discussion, but not necessarily progress." Tagliabue said, according to the AP, that he doesn't expect the owners to reach a revenue-sharing accord that would enable them to complete a labor deal with the union before the next scheduled owners' meeting in late May in Washington.

The current labor deal keeps the NFL's system of free agency and the salary cap in place through the 2006 season before there would be a season without a salary cap in 2007.

Early Negotiations

The agent for Utah quarterback Alex Smith has told the San Francisco 49ers that he wants a contract worth more than Eli Manning's deal with the New York Giants if the 49ers use the top overall choice in the draft Saturday on Smith, a source familiar with the deliberations said yesterday.

The 49ers are negotiating with agent Tom Condon, trying to line up a contract agreement with Smith as a possible precursor to using the first pick on him. But the 49ers apparently want to pay their choice less than the six-year, $45 million deal that Manning, the top overall selection in last year's draft, got from the Giants. Manning's contract was negotiated by Condon.

Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers is willing to accept a contract with less money in the final two years of the deal than Manning's, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because deliberations are at a sensitive stage.

A source said Monday that the 49ers would use the pick on Smith if they could complete a contract with him before the draft. Rodgers's agent, Michael Sullivan, said yesterday he hadn't been told by the 49ers that Rodgers was out of the running to be the top pick, but declined further comment. . . .

Carolina reached a contract agreement with tight end Freddie Jones, an unrestricted free agent formerly with Arizona. . . . Wide receiver Reggie Swinton, an unrestricted free agent formerly with Detroit, agreed to a contract with Houston. . . . Denver re-signed free agent defensive end Marco Coleman. . . . Buffalo re-signed free agent quarterback Shane Matthews, who had contemplated retirement. . . . Wideout David Givens re-signed with New England, accepting the one-year, $1.43 million contract that the Patriots tendered him in restricted free agency.

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