Banner: NFL offer would pay veterans more

Eagles president Joe Banner said the players walked away from a fair deal. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Eagles president Joe Banner weighed in again on the NFL's labor spat today, saying players walked away from a deal that would have paid veterans am amount in 2011 similar to what they made in the past, and more in the very near future.

"You are talking about a significant increase over the next four years versus the last four years in cap and benefits to the players," Banner told the web site ProFootballTalk. "That’s why we thought it was a fair proposal and one that warranted a continuation of discussions."

Banner also talked about how the Eagles will consider proposed NFL rules changes, and Jeff McLane earlier today wrote about the Eagles outlook on the defensive line, as part of our Birds Eye View effort to do a little actual football writing.

But most of Banner's interview today focused on the story of the moment: the NFL lockout. He spoke in an appearance on PFT Live and made comments similar to what he told us after talks broke down last week.

While the NFLPA said they were still being asked to take a pay cut, Banner said veterans would do well under the owners' offer because most of the givebacks would come from first round picks, who would see their pay reduced, particularly the first dozen selections. That would free up more money for veterans and retired players, Banner said, even if the overall revenue pie shifted toward the owners.

"Veteran players were going to receive as much or more money as they have in the past," he said. Players taken later in the first round would have seen some reductions in pay, but not as drastically as the top overall choices. Those taken in rounds two through seven would have been unaffected financially, he said.

But the NFLPA (now a trade association, not a union) had a far different take on the NFL's offer, saying last week that players would make less in 2011 and 2012 than they did in 2009. Earlier this week Saints qaurterback Drew Brees said players were still being asked to give up $1.66 billion over four years.

Here's a brief explanation of why both can say they're right: Banner is comparing the future combined numbers for benefits spending and salary cap (allowed spending) to past actual spending on those items. In other words, even if the cap might be lowered, it would still be higher than the recent spending, when some teams stayed below the cap.

The NFLPA has compared cap numbers to cap numbers. The 2011 and 2012 cap and benefits numbers are lower than in the past. In their mind, they're still being asked to take a pay cut. Even if a future cap is higher than past spending, there's no guarantee teams would spend all the way to the new cap (though there would be a salary floor and usually teams have used most of their cap space).

Brees' number doesn't match the figure floated by the league, but it's possible that his estimate includes a wider range of issues (maybe, for example, he's counting benefits to retirees, or perhaps the players and owners are using different baselines for their comparisons; neither side has clarified the details of their estimates).

Tired of labor talk? Unfortunately, it's where most of the real news will come from in the coming weeks. Neither side has much incentive to talk before the April 6 hearing on the players' request for an injunction blocking the lockout. The outcome of that hearing could significantly alter negotiating leverage, so neither side will feel much compunction to compromise until they see if they can score a big win in court, as we detailed earlier this week.

Until then, owners and players will mostly talk at each other, rather than to each other.

In some potential news about football on the field, the NFL's competition committee today unveiled proposals that could get a vote at the owners' meetings, which open Sunday in New Orleans.

The proposals include:

-- Moving the kick off back up to the 35-yard-line and placing touchbacks at the 25. The two-man wedge would also be banned. The changes could cut down on kick returns, which have raised worry because of their danger. The Eagles' Ellis Hobbs, for one, suffered neck injuries on returns each of the past two years. Moving the kick off and touchback spots would make it easier to kick to the end zone and increase the reward for taking a knee. Years ago the league moved kick offs to the 30 to encourage kick returns, which were seen as exciting, rather than dangerous.

-- Increased enforcement for hits on defenseless players, including expanding the definition of who is defenseless and adding suspensions for flagrant violations.

-- Making all scoring plays subject to review by a replay assistant, instead of requiring a coach's challenge. Challenges on scoring plays would be eliminated. CORRECTION FROM EARLIER: The assistant would decide if a play needs further review. The ref on the field would still handle the actual review and decide whether or not to overturn the original call.

The first two are obviously safety related, and there is mounting pressure on the league to protect players. I find it very hard to argue against anything that makes the game safer. Nothing will ever eliminate all danger, but the NFL can at least try to reduce it and discourage risky behavior, even if it won't go away entirely.

The challenge change would also be a positive. The goal should be getting calls right -- coaches shouldn't have to worry about losing a time out, and let a questionable touchdown stand, just because they aren't sure if a replay assistant will see things his way.

Banner said owner Jeffrey Lurie would almost certainly vote in line with Andy Reid's recommendations on the proposals.

"Almost every time , in fact I can’t think of an exception, Jeff has followed Andy’s recommendation," Banner said.