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NFLPA: Stephen Ross made a wise investment

The National Football League Players Association has a lot on its plate the coming months and years.

In March, the players' union will look to elect a new executive director and you should keep you eye on this process because two of the favorites to replace Gene Upshaw, who passed in August, are former Dolphins teammates Trace Armstrong and Troy Vincent.

Long-term, the NFLPA has to be worried about the fact 2009 is the final capped year off the current collective bargaining agreement, 2010 is scheduled to be uncapped, and the threat of a lock out hovers over the league for 2010 or 2011 absent a new agreement.

In preparing for negotiations that could lead to a new agreement, the NFLPA commissioned a Chicago-based economic team to study the state of the league's 32 teams. The conclusions, based on court documents, and other data, concluded that NFL teams rose in value at a rate of 14 percent the past 10 years, with the average price of a franchise going from $288 million to $1.04 billion. No team obviously opened its books for this study except the Green Bay Packers which are a public-owned team.

The study further concluded that in the last year, the average team made $24.7 million in profits and rose in value $82.6 million for a total of $107.3 million in total annual return. This means that in tough economic times, each NFL owner got about a 10 percent return on his team.

Applying the formula to the Dolphins going forward, Stephen Ross can expect a 10 percent return on his $1.1 billion investment next year, or $110 million. Obviously, that is an approximate projection that doesn't take into account the unpredictability of the current economy.

There are also factors at play for Ross that don't apply to other clubs, such as the debt load he carries for Dolphin Stadium. [Some of that debt will be paid if and when Ross sells naming rights to the facility, which he is expected to do.]

The point the NFLPA is making is that, even as some NFL owners are crying poverty as they look for rollbacks on the players getting 60 percent of the gross revenues, their teams are basically licenses to print money.

Good thing Ross decided against raising ticket prices for 2009.