The NFL Lockout: One Fan’s View (Part II)

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hough the top end of the salary cap won’t change much, the institution of a hard salary floor could have a great impact on numerous teams and their fans.  Some small market and notoriously frugal teams (Tampa Bay and Cincinnati are two examples) will now be forced to spend tens of millions of dollars on free agents to reach this minimum requirement.  This is great if they are spending to sign the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha or DeAngelo Williams, but there are only so many of those players to go around.  The long term impact of the salary floor will probably result in the average NFL contract increasing, but the short term effect will be teams bidding on and overpaying sub-par players solely to meet this threshold.

For the teams that have to spend this kind of money to reach this new salary floor – and even some that don’t – the new agreement becomes a built-in excuse to raise prices.  Teams will need to increase revenue anyway they can.  As someone who attends a decent amount of games, I’m already frustrated with high ticket prices, $25 parking fees and $9 beers.  How much will prices increase once the lockout is settled?  I love going to games, but at some point the cost outweighs the experience.  I might be there already. If prices go much higher then I and thousands of other fans will have to pass on tickets and settle for watching the games at home (if they’re not blacked out).

Setting a maximum rookie contract at four years in length without offering teams any additional means of keeping players (like right of first refusal, transition tags, restricted free agency) might turn out to be another slap in the face to fans.

Many NFL draft picks, particularly those drafted after the first couple of rounds, take at least a couple of years to develop. I’m going to hate to see my team draft a player, put in the developmental time and effort and suffer through the growing pains only to see him leave as a free agent and become a star someplace else. I want my team to be able to hang on to those players and reap the rewards of good player development.

Any NFL fan can appreciate watching Chris Johnson run away from defenders or Darrelle Revis shutdown a wide receiver, but the exhilaration you get while watching them do it for your team is unmatchable.  With shorter contracts (and possibly less means of keeping players), players will be changing teams more often and earlier in their careers than ever before, and we’ll lose at least part of that fan-player bond.

When the lockout gets resolved and football starts up again, fans will be happy and probably won’t care who “won” the lockout. I just wonder if they’ll feel the same way one or two years from now.