It appears the NFL is about to enter a period of uncertainty as the league's owners have decided to break off negotiations with the NFL Players Association on an extension for the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
As of Thursday morning, free agency is slated to start at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday. The salary cap for the 2006 season will be $94.5 million, barring any last-minute negotiations. That could force many teams, including the Redskins, to release veterans to get under the salary cap by midnight, before the start of free agency.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue addressed the media following an owners meeting in New York City on Thursday morning. The NFL and the players union are reportedly at an impasse over percentages of revenue sharing.
Said Tagliabue: "The difference between now and the past is the fundamental change in the way [the NFLPA] is defining their expectations as to the percentages that should go to players and the unwillingness and inability to recognize the very real costs that are associated with what the league has done in building new stadiums and generating revenues and investing in enterprises that produce the revenue."
Added Tagliabue: "We feel that one of the positive things about the NFL is with the CBA and one that works for both sides. We have put a proposal on the table that would extend that until 2011 and we recognize that the last year of the current agreement is certainly not ideal in terms of operation realities and it's certainly not a good situation for anybody."
Although the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) does not expire until after the 2007 season, talks for an extension have been going for more than a year.
With no extension, the cap number of $94.5 million would be lower than most teams had expected with an extension. Also, with no extension, 2007 would become an uncapped year.
What does all this mean for the Redskins?
As head coach Joe Gibbs said last Saturday from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the Redskins mapped out a number of scenarios based on whether the CBA was extended or not. Team officials are well-prepared for a scenario in which the CBA is not extended.
Vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said last week that, with no CBA extension in place, the Redskins would likely put more focus on acquiring players in the draft than in free agency.
"If there is a Collective Bargaining Agreement, we can answer a lot of our questions in free agency," Cerrato said on Feb. 23. "If there's not a Collective Bargaining Agreement, which we should know hopefully in the next few days, then we'll be doing most of our [player acquisitions] in the draft."
The Redskins have been working diligently over the last few days to renegotiate contracts with several veteran players. That would help the team get under the $94.5 million salary cap. Quarterback Mark Brunell agreed to terms of a restructured contract earlier this week.
Several NFL teams began the process of cutting players on Wednesday. Former Redskins running back Stephen Davis was among the players released by the Carolina Panthers.