Lockout Watch 2011! Seven more days

About 20 hours after we found out that the NFL and NFLPA had agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement deadline by one day, we’ve found out that the two sides have now extended the deadline by a full week.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report that the league and the union now have seven extra days to reach a new long-term agreement on where to cut a $9 billion pie, how much to pay rookies, how long the regular season should last, what kind of money to give to retired players and a multitude of ancillary issues.

This is obviously an indication that things are progressing quickly. The parties wouldn’t have added seven days if they didn’t believe they could get something done in that time period. And although there have been conflicting reports as to how well talks are going, it looks as though those on the “positive” side were on to something.

The new deadline to get a deal done is next friday at 5:00 p.m. ET, which means the clock starts now. But the two sides will break for the weekend and renew discussions Monday morning.

The remarkable turnaround is also an indication that mediation helped. The process was widely criticized as a publicity stunt when the owners and the players agreed to talk in the presence of federal mediator George Cohen two weeks ago, but things have picked up since then. How much of that progress can be attributed to mediation as opposed to the recent decision of US District Judge David Doty to take away the league’s right to “lockout insurance”? It’s impossible to know.

But only one thing matters: progress is being made.

And so next week will suck, especially considering that transactions are now frozen. No trades, no contract extensions, no tenders, nothing. Get ready for another week of legalese.

And then, hopefully, it’ll all be over.