Ravens owner: Many clubs struggling

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday that several

NFL owners are facing a financial shortfall that could create

“long-term problems for the league” and ultimately result in a

lockout.

As the Ravens prepare for a 2010 season without a salary cap,

Bisciotti hinted the NFL could shut down in March 2011 if

concessions aren’t made by the players union in negotiations for a

new collective bargaining agreement.

Speaking at a news conference in which team officials looked

back at last season and ahead to 2010, Bisciotti insisted many of

the 32 NFL teams are struggling to finish in the black.

“I’ve got partners out there right now whose teams are making

less money than their linebackers. I think we’ve got an acute

problem here with the general profitability of the teams,”

Bisciotti said. “We always knew this was not a big cash-flow

business, but when you’ve got guys like Jacksonville tarping up

10,000 seats to stop blackouts, when you’ve got teams that are

voluntarily staying at the minimum of what they have to spend on

the salary cap in order to not go upside down financially, then we

already have a structural problem.”

Three years ago, the owners and players union signed a CBA

that Bisciotti labeled “a bad deal” for the owners.

“That puts us in the unenviable position of this thing ending

in a lockout as opposed to a strike,” he said. “There’s no cash

flow. If we don’t get this thing back to the point that teams have

enough cash flow … then there’s long-term problem for the league.

We’re going to have to address that.”

Ravens president Dick Cass said the club is “doing well

compared to other teams around the league. But just because we’re

still doing well in revenues, that doesn’t mean we’re generating a

lot of profit.”

Although there’s a good chance there will not be a salary cap

in place in 2010, that doesn’t mean a team will be allowed to spend

at will. And even by spending the maximum, that won’t guarantee a

spot in the playoffs.

Using baseball’s New York Yankees as an example, Bisciotti

wondered aloud about the payoff on an unbridled spending spree.

“It certainly doesn’t show up in the standings,” he said. “If

I’m a Yankees fan, I’m upset we’re not winning 130 games with the

roster that they have and the money that they pay out. I think it’s

a disgrace they only beat the average team by 10 games in the

standings with three times the money. I’d fire that GM. You don’t

need a GM. All you have to do is buy the last Cy Young Award winner

every year.”

Bisciotti, 49, has been the Ravens’ owner for 10 years,

during which the team has regularly sold out its home games.

Despite that he still has concern about the future of the league.

“We want to be at a point where teams are not selling off

their star players in their fourth year because they can’t afford

to sign them to that second contract,” Bisciotti said.

As the Ravens enter an offseason with an uncertain financial

environment and no salary cap, general manager Ozzie Newsome is

eager to work within the system to enhance their wide receivers and

fortify their pass rush.

“The restrictions put on the Baltimore Ravens are put on 31

other ballclubs, too,” Newsome said. “We’ve got to be better than

the other 31 clubs in order to make our football team under these

circumstances. I look at it as a challenge. It puts the pressure on

us to dig down deep to improve our football team.”

The Ravens went 9-7 this season and reached the second round

of the playoffs before being eliminated by Indianapolis. Bisciotti

said the improvement of second-year quarterback Joe Flacco will be

the key to success in 2011.

Flacco’s ability to excel could be helped by new quarterbacks

coach Jim Zorn — and the addition of a few new targets.

“Do we want to improve at the wide receiver position? Yes,

because that will further enhance our running game,” Newsome said.

“Having a playmaker on the outside will make Joe Flacco become a

better quarterback.”