NFL Players' Association executive director Gene Upshaw told a seminar of agents on Friday to prepare for a 2006 season without an extension to the collective bargaining agreement, setting up an uncapped year in 2007.
"March 3 will be the beginning of a new league year and we are just not there yet," Upshaw said. "I'm taking the position now that it won't get done."
No negotiating sessions are scheduled although Upshaw said he is willing to talk. He told agents the issues are so far apart that there is virtually no way a deal could be set before next Thursday, the eve of the start of free agency. Under no circumstance, Upshaw said, will the union agree to delay the start of free agency to accommodate a deal.
Three major issues were cited by Upshaw for an extension not getting done:
• Neither side can agree on the percentage of total revenues that will go to the players. Upshaw wouldn't elaborate on where the numbers were in the negotiations, but he has publicly said he wants a percentage number in the 60s. Reportedly, the sides are four percent apart but that number wasn't discussed by Upshaw.
"We want to have a higher percentage," Upshaw said. "We want more dollars to come into the system."
How significant is the percentage differential?
Upshaw said each percentage point is worth $2 million of cap room per team early in any CBA agreement, $2.5 million in the middle and $2.9 million in the end.
• The NFLPA won't agree to any type of CBA extension that doesn't have a new revenue sharing plan in the future. The differences between the teams with the highest and lowest revenue-sharing totals have grown as much as $100 million dollars. The league's owners aren't close on any revenue-sharing deal among themselves, and Upshaw considers that something the union would never accept in a new deal without revised revenue sharing.
• Upshaw's third difference is the league's "G-3" program in which money is loaned to teams by the league to finance new stadium construction. The union has to sign off on any "G-3" plan because it comes out of the gross revenue pool. Upshaw is asking for a "flip tax" in which the union gets a return on the investment. The NFLPA hasn't signed off on new stadium "G-3" deals for the Cowboys, Colts and Giants.
With nothing on the horizon that gives him optimism of any breakthroughs, Upshaw set a soft deadline of Friday for getting a CBA extension. According to him, the sides are so far apart that a six-year extension would be hard to settle before the hard deadline of March 3.
To give agents guidance, Upshaw told the room that the 2006 cap should be between $92 million and $95 million but he thinks the realistic number will be $96 million. That number should be settled within in the next day or so. He said the benefits package paid by teams is $13.8 million.
Though he will be available by phone, Upshaw planned to leave Indianapolis on Friday afternoon and return to Washington.
"I'm leaving," Upshaw said. "We're running out of time. You might as well prepare as if we are heading for an upcapped year."
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.