More than a month after the expiration of their contract, negotiators for the National Football League Players Association and the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, have before them on the bargaining table their original contract proposals.
On June 7 in Washington, the NFLPA handed management negotiators its comprehensive proposal in which the NFL would divert 55 percent of its gross annual income to a trust fund that would pay player salaries on a seniority-based scale, with incentive bonuses based on performance.
More than a month later, on July 13 in New York, management responded with its first comprehensive offer -- a proposal based on the previously existing contract that bettered wages and fringe benefits and eased restrictions on movements of players from one team to another.
Ten days later, on July 23 in Washington, negotiations between the two sides recessed with no movement on the part of either side. There have been no meetings since. The union, arguing that it wants players to participate in the talks, says it will meet only near an NFL training camp site. Management says it will meet anywhere but a training camp.
Under the union's proposal, $330 million a year would be set aside for the player trust fund, assuming the NFL grosses $600 million, an estimate considered by many to be conservative.
Seventy percent of that money, or $231 million, would be set aside for base salaries to be paid according to a point system that would award points on the basis of years in the league and appearances in past Pro Bowls. Under this plan, a player would receive a base salary of $115,464 in his third year, $149,424 in his fifth year and $273,944 in his 10th year. If a 10-year veteran had played in five Pro Bowls, his base salary would rise to $307,904.
Another 15 percent of the money, or $50 million, would be allocated for performance incentive bonuses. Under this union plan:
* The players would select 40 players to participate in the Pro Bowl. Members of the winning team would receive $70,000 each; members of the losing team would receive $46,000. (The players and coaches currently select Pro Bowl participants.)
* The 272 top players, as chosen by NFL athletes, at the various positions would receive a bonus of $20,000 each or more.
* Players on teams that are statistical leaders in offensive, defensive and special teams categories would divide $13.7 million on the basis of downs played.
* All NFL players would divide an additional $26.2 million on the basis of downs played. A player who starts and plays every offensive, defensive or special teams down would receive approximately $1,750 per game under this proposal.
The NFLPA is also proposing that 4.5 percent of the trust fund, or $14.85 million, go into the playoff or Super Bowl pool. Under this rule, players would receive $7,000 apiece for participating in a wild-card playoff game. Super Bowl winners would receive $72,000 apiece.
The remaining 10 percent of the trust fund, approximately $33.9 million, would cover administrative costs and severance pay. The union is proposing that beginning with this season, players receive at retirement $20,000 severance pay for every year played in the NFL.
The union is also demanding that all player contracts be guaranteed once a player makes a team.
On June 8, the day after the NFLPA presented its play, Jack Donlan, the Management Council's chief negotiator, formally rejected it, repeating his contention that the NFL owners would never accept any pay proposal that was tied to a percentage of gross revenues. Gene Upshaw of the Los Angeles Raiders says the concept is "etched in stone."
In his counterproposal, Donlan agreed to the easing of restrictions on player movement by reducing the amount of compensation -- in the form of draft choices -- that a team signing a veteran player must pay the team that loses him.
Under the current system, a player making $80,000 commands a first-round draft pick if signed by another club; under Donlan's proposal a player would not command a first-round pick until his salary reached $110,000. At $200,000 a player currently commands two first-round draft picks, but that figure would rise to $250,000 under Donlan's proposal. Moreover, for players with seven years experience or more, the salary at which draft picks would be required for signing with other clubs would rise with each year of NFL experience.
For Pro Bowl play, the Donlan proposal would increase the bonus to members of the winning team from $5,000 to $7,500. The losers' bonus would go from $2,500 to $3,750. Participants in a wild-card playoff game would get $5,000, up from the current $3,000. The bonus for Super Bowl winners would go from $18,000 to $30,000, and members of a team that went all the way from a wild-card playoff to the Super Bowl would get $56,000 each. Super Bowl losers would get a raise from $9,000 to $15,000.
The proposal also provides for increases in life insurance from a maximum of $50,000 to $100,000 and in major medical insurance from a maximum of $250,000 to $500,000.
Minimum player salaries would increase from $22,000 to $30,000 for rookies; from $28,000 to $40,000 for third-year players and from $32,000 to $50,000 for fifth-year players.
The players association formally rejected the offer the day after it was submitted.