While Ravens president Dick Cass expects the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be the hottest topic at the NFL Owners Meeting in Dana Point, Calif., next week, he knows a resolution is far down the road.
Still, with the recent election of DeMaurice Smith to lead the NFL Players Association, the owners can union can finally make headway on a new deal.
The current CBA is due to expire two years from now, and if both sides cannot come to an agreement, that would lead to a year without a salary cap. Teams could spend as much as they want… or as little.
"It will be the first time we've had an uncapped year since the 1993 season," Cass said. "It won't be the unrestrained spending that some people think it will be. There are rules in place that have the effect of restraining the spending."
At worst, it could also lead to a player lockout. With that on the horizon, the Ravens are preparing for all possibilities, because there is really no way to predict what will happen next.
"I really don't know," Cass continued. "I know that now that we have a new union head, both parties will be able to sit down and talk about the issue. I know both the union and the league are going to work hard to correct the situation.
"From a Ravens perspective, we're assuming at this point in planning for 2010 being an uncapped year."
But beyond the CBA, there are other issues to tackle - with a fleeting economy and rule changes on the forefront.
The Ravens, like all NFL clubs, have been affected by the current economic situation. But while suite, advertisement and sponsorship sales have been more of a challenge, Cass said that he expects the Ravens to weather the storm.
"It has affected us somewhat," explained the president. 'Last year, it was much more difficult selling sponsorships and selling ads. But, I think we're doing well. I'm optimistic that we're doing fine. From a fan perspective, I don't think the fans will feel the crunch."
Fans may think, however, that raised ticket prices for 2009 are a sign that Baltimore is in an economic crunch. Not so, said Cass.
The Ravens have a tradition of raising ticket prices every other year since 2001.
According to Ravens officials, such a move keeps ticket prices among the top third of all teams in the NFL. As one of the league's lowest television markets, Baltimore must maintain that status to stay competitive.
"We understand that we are in a down economy but to change our every other year philosophy would likely mean even greater increases in future years," said Baker Koppelman, the Ravens' vice president of ticket operations. "The economy is only one of many factors but ultimately our goal is to provide a product that fans can take pride in.
"Everything was taken into consideration when making this decision. We want to give fans the type of team they just experienced in 2008, and in order to do that, we must remain financially competitive with other teams."
As for rule changes, one of the most controversial potential changes has been overtime. That is not likely to change this year.
Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who is also co-chair of the NFL's competition committee, said the committee will recommend several rules changes and modifications next week, but overtime was not one of them.
"I don't expect there to be that much discussion about the topic," McKay said.
McKay said while the discussed the situation "for more hours than we would care to talk about," there was "great support for the current system."
According to McKay, 63 percent of sudden death games were won by teams that won the coin toss. Most of those victories (43 percent) came on the opening possession. The Ravens were on the wrong end of that percentage last year when they lost 23-20 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4.
Other rule changes to be discussed at the NFL Owners Meeting mainly concern player safety, including:
- Eliminating the bunch formation on kickoffs.
- Eliminate the three- or four-man wedge on kickoff returns.
- Eliminate/penalize helmet-to-helmet contact that occurs on a blindside block.
- Mandate there be no initial contact by a defender to the head area of a defenseless receiver.
The NFL Owners Meeting runs from Sunday to Wednesday.