According to John Clayton of ESPN.com, on May 2oth, the owners officially opted out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). In March of 2006, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to an extension to the CBA through the 2012 season, with a salary cap in effect through the 2011 season. The last year has always been uncapped and has always included some poison pills in an attempt to get the owners and the players to agree to extensions early. This last agreement included an option for either the NFL or the NFLPA to opt out of the deal early. With the owners electing to void the CBA early, the CBA will expire following the 2010 season, the salary cap will remain in effect through the 2009 season and the 2010 season will be uncapped and the final college draft would take place in April of 2011. The owners had until November of this year to make the decision, but elected to do it early in an attempt to get the ball rolling on negotiations.
Pat Kirwan of NFL.com, Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports and Jaguars.com, all wrote detailed articles explaining what will happen if an extension to the CBA is not reached in the near future. Judging from the contrasting points in all the articles written above, the media doesn't even know entirely what is going to happen if the CBA expires and neither do I, but from what I understand, this is how the expiration of the CBA could effect the Lions.
- Until the Lions are positive or at least pretty certain of what is going to happen with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, I wouldn't expect Roy Williams to sign a long-term contract with the Lions. He'll be a free agent after this season (he has the option to void the 2009 season, which he'd be stupid not to). The Lions will franchise him and keep him if they want him to remain on the team or trade him if they don't, but they'll get decent value for him if they trade him. If no agreement is reached before the 2010 season, Roy will be franchised again (120% pay increase over his 2009 franchise salary of probably around $9M). Again, he'll either remain with the team if that's what the Lions prefer or they'll trade him and get decent value for him.
- After the 2008 season, Jason Hanson, Paris Lenon, Stephen Peterman, Stanley Wilson, Langston Moore and Shaun McDonald are the only significant players that are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents (other than Roy). I'd look for the Lions to lock up Hanson this summer and the rest depending on how they perform in 2008. The ones who perform well during the season will likely be given an extension near the end of the year or early in 2009 (provided that the Lions choose to keep them), the others would be in a "wait and see" position.
- Daniel Bullocks is the only significant current player that would have become an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2010, but would qualify for Restricted Free Agency if an extension to the CBA is not reached before then.
If an agreement isn't reached before March of 2011, most people believe that the Owners will lock out the players, basically barring them from participating in free agency. The owners from the small market teams can not afford to pay high end players without a salary cap that includes revenue sharing. Salaries for the top end players will sky rocket as the high market teams (Dallas, Washington, New England, etc) will pay top dollar to entice players to sign a contract and low market teams that depend on revenue sharing (Minnesota, Indy, Atlanta, etc) won't be able to compete. If they aren't able to compete, they will vote to lock out and the owners of the high market teams will vote with them because they need to protect themselves from themselves. All in all, what has been a win/win situation for both the owners and the players, will become a lose/lose situation for both the owners and the players. They will get a deal done to extend the CBA and keep the salary cap intact, it's in the best interest of everyone concerned (high market teams, low market teams, mid market teams, high caliber players, average players, minimum pay players).