New England Patriots Links 6/21/11 - Robert Kraft, Owners Meet In Chicago

Tom E. Curran says this is be the most important week of Robert Kraft's tenure.

The league's 32 owners will meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago. They'll argue whether satisfactory progress has been made since they decided to lock out the players on March 11 and force negotiation of a new labor deal.

They'll battle among themselves over rookie wage scale concessions, health benefit payouts, controlling payroll, how much projected growth the players can share in, revenue sharing, who gets credit for what and - most significantly - how a new deal will benefit their franchise and their very own financial bottom lines. 

Kraft has been involved in every high and low an owner could imagine - battling a heavyweight coach, building a new stadium, getting to the precipice of moving a franchise, winning Super Bowls, dealing with ignominious charges of on-field cheating, creating commerce around the team. And while doing that, he's struck deals and blazed trails that helped every other franchise see the financial light, whether it be digitally or with TV contracts.

He can relate to the hawkish tendencies of owners like Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Jerry Richardson of the Panthers. At the same time, while he may not seem to totally agree with the way teams like the Bengals and Bills work their small markets, he seems to at least appreciate their travails.

He's poised to be the bridge-builder this week when the owners gather.

It's likely a majority will see an end to the lockout as being for the greater good. Concessions from the players will have been gained, damage to the product can be minimized, there will be no interruption of inflowing money from customers.

But in order for the deal to be accepted, 24 teams have to approve it. And the strange blend of big-market teams and small-market teams who may resist the deal for very different reasons.

The job of convincing holdout small-market owners that the deal won't break them while assuring holdout big-market teams that they aren't financially propping up the have-nots is going to be tricky business.

Add in the dynamic of owners swallowing pride in letting their employees win a little, plus the wishes and demands of attorneys in the room and there's a combustible mix to keep the lid on.

To be clear, Robert Kraft isn't riding in on a white horse. From his involvement in the "lockout insurance" deal that Judge David Doty ruled was improperly struck to his conspicuous disdain for De Smith at the outset of the lockout, he's had a part in creating the divide.

But no owner has been more vocal and active in bridging the divide and attempting to get football back in business before severe damage is done. - And that effort culminates this week.

Don Banks (SI) NFL, players bring labor momentum to the owner meetings in Chicago.

In other words, the framework of a new labor agreement will be presented to the full ownership for the first time, and then all 32 clubs will be allowed to pick it apart for potential problems, dive into the details in depth, and propose changes they view as pivotal to their support. How long that crucial process takes is anyone's guess, which is why the league has asked all owners to be prepared to go into Tuesday evening and even stay over until Wednesday to continue the discussion and debate.

Owners this week need to wrap their hands around facts such as how closely a new deal will resemble the CBA terms they opted out of in 2008, the operational plan of how and when free agency will be conducted in the wake of an agreement, and the specific structure of how owners and players will share in potential TV revenues after the current contract expires following the 2013 season. Many different constituencies must be addressed and considered by Goodell and Co., including those perceived hard-line/small-market owners such as Buffalo's Ralph Wilson and Cincinnati's Mike Brown, who alone voted against the 2006 CBA proposal and later complained that they weren't even given time to understand that document.

TEAM TALK

  • Patriots Roster Report - 6/17/11: The PFW crew breaks down the depth at the outside linebacker position with the addition of rookie Markell Carter. (8.38 min. program)

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