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Gazzolo: Class warfare, NFL style

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 10:24 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Pro football’s version of national signing day began Tuesday with more than a few middle-class players being elevated into the world of the rich.

As some players jumped to new, far better contracts, others were left behind, forced to take less or be cut by their present clubs.

The second group included far bigger names than the first.

It’s class warfare, NFL style.

This is all thanks to that collective bargaining agreement the players union and owners signed to end last year’s lockout.

That season was saved, but the league’s future now seems up for grabs.

Players are unhappy with the terms and the power given to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Seems they didn’t read the fine print.

Here is a strange fact: the league is making more money then every before. Television revenue is up to a record high and interest in the game continues to soar.

Yet for some reason the salary cap has declined this season.

That’s less money in the players’ wallets and it would seem more in the vaults of those who own the teams.

Guess we all know who won that lockout now. Seems to have finished about as one sided as a Kansas City Chiefs game.

Truth be told, the players never had a chance. Their careers are so short they don’t dare sit out a season to benefit future players.

Now we see the outcome of those negations.

Older players who are unwilling to redo their contracts are let go. Ryan Fitzpatrick comes to mind first.

Just two years after signing a huge extension to be the Buffalo Bills quarterback of the present and future, Fitzpatrick was given his walking papers.

When you think about it, getting kicked out of Buffalo is never a bad thing. Getting paid to leave town is even better.

It used to be NFL teams had to rebuild through the draft. Not now.

Trades help, but it’s what you do concerning free agents and long-term contracts that matter most.

The Saints lost their Pro Bowl left tackle to Chicago on Tuesday, but when you pay your quarterback what New Orleans gives to Drew Brees it is hard to keep everybody, let alone keep everybody happy.

We hear all the time how players want to win and how it is not all about the money, but really it is all about the money.

Joe Flacco won himself a Super Bowl, got a giant new contract and already lost at least three players to free agency. More are likely to follow out the exit door in Baltimore.

I’m sure that in a year or so Flacco will be asked to restructure his deal to make cap room for the Ravens to get better talent.

It seems teams have learned it is better to let others draft and train players then go out and steal them for the right price. It does make sense, but it also means the power rankings in the NFL change almost day to day.

It also means the draft isn’t quite as important as it used to be. No longer are you picking a player you expect to be with you for the next decade. Instead you have to be prepared to lose him in four or five years.

As for the players, they also now know that those giant contracts they sign are only worth what the team is willing to make them worth. They can tear them up at any time.

No wonder players are willing to jump from team to team for a few bucks. That is the only way they can stay in charge of their careers.

This has become a part of the game that most fans don’t notice when their team takes the field on those Sundays in the fall, yet championships are won, or at least can be lost, with the right or wrong move in March.

It sure is a different game. It’s not just about Xs and Os. It’s about who signs on what dotted line.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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