NFL lockout might mean another year for UA football stars

Jason Galloway

It appears nothing good could come from an NFL lockout in 2011.

The players won’t play, the owners will lose more money and the only thing professional football fans can watch on the weekends will be the upstart United Football League.

What will happen when this season concludes and no more progress has been made between the NFL owners and Players’ Association towards a new collective bargaining agreement?

I’ll tell you what’ll happen. Alabama fans will celebrate.

Crimson Tide stars Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower and Mark Barron are all somewhere between likely and extremely likely to enter the 2011 NFL Draft before their college eligibility runs out. That is, unless they believe their rookie season wouldn’t come until 2012 anyway.

Let me give some background on the possibility of an NFL work stoppage next season. In 2006, the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the players and the league was signed. It gave the players 59.5 percent of all football-related revenue.

Because some teams make more than others, and the salary cap is the same for each club, some teams have to spend a higher percentage of their income to put players on the field.

Several teams (Giants, Jets, Colts, Cowboys) have built new stadiums since this deal happened in 2006. These stadiums are creating a boost in revenue for those particular teams, and 59.9 percent of sharable revenue from those stadiums goes to the players.

This seems like a good thing. The problem is, the salary cap continues to rise, and lower-market teams are being forced to pay too high of a percentage of their revenue to players.

The result: The owners opted out of this deal in 2008, which they were contractually allowed to do by that deadline, and a struggle between the league and the Players’ Association to reach a new agreement has yet to conclude.

Because they have not agreed to a new CBA, the 2010 NFL season is being played without a salary cap. The original agreement was supposed to expire in March of next year. If they don’t come to terms by then, a lockout could occur.

One would think the owners would be smart enough to avoid a lockout, shutting down nearly all revenue for the time being, but the two parties have been bickering back and forth for more than two years now with little or no progress.

So, it’s easy to see why those potential first-round draft picks from Alabama could be in quite the debacle when they are forced to make a decision on the NFL in mid-January.

They could go ahead and declare. Work stoppage or not, they would be high draft picks – maybe even a little higher than expected with some top underclassmen remaining at school.

If a lockout actually occurred, however, they would take a year off playing football, making the transition to the NFL tougher the following year.

On top of that, I believe teams would wait as long as possible to sign their draft picks to avoid paying their rookies hefty signing bonuses when no revenue is coming their way.

With that in mind, it may not take much convincing for Ingram, Jones, Dareus, Hightower and Barron to stay in Tuscaloosa one more year. If Alabama were to repeat this past season, I’m sure it would be tempting to return for a chance at a third straight AP national championship – something that has never been accomplished – especially when nothing is guaranteed at the next level.