If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, is a player who’s not under contract still locked out? This is the rhetorical riddle the players are now reportedly attempting to answer as a five-month long lockout takes yet another bizarre turn.
Labor talks are continuing today with eight owners present. But as we’re forced to keep reading generic public statements that generate an automatic reach for Gravol alongside other in-depth reports saying the two sides aren’t that close, the players could have another weapon in their arsenal.
Go ahead, Mike Florio, tell us about your source who says that an already bizarre offseason could enter an all new level of absurdity.
A source with direct knowledge of the negotiations tells PFT that the players could soon be filing a motion to end the lockout as to players not currently under contract. In Friday’s ruling allowing the lockout generally to proceed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit concluded that, regarding the rookies and unsigned free agents, the lockout possibly could be prevented until they sign contracts.
Though this ultimately is a distinction without a difference, the process of requiring the league to open the doors for the purposes of signing rookies and free agents before systematically locking each one out after giving them seven-figure-or-more signing bonuses would create, as the NFLPA* lawyers called it in a memo obtained by Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, a “bizarre chaos.”
Florio explains that for this unique brand of chaos to begin, the players involved in the Brady v. NFL case would file their injunction with Judge Susan Nelson, who would then make a ruling stating whether or not the lockout should apply to rookies not yet under contract and pending free agents.
The purpose of course is a pay day and some job security in a profession that doesn’t provide much of it. While the Nnamdi Asomughas of the NFL aren’t losing much beauty sleep over their future–they know that they’ll receive a large sum of money to play football, they just don’t know when or where yet–there are middle and lower tier players clawing for a spot on a roster and some financial security.
If the players do indeed file this motion and they’re successful, the resulting ruling would essentially open free agency with the lockout still continuing. Free agents would be permitted to sign with a new team, and directly after signing off on their pay day they’d re-enter the lockout lunacy we’ve all come to know and despise.
Where this becomes particularly messy is when dealing with players who were retained by their current teams prior to the lockout with a franchise tag. That list is 14 players long, and includes several particularly notable names (anyone heard of this Peyton Manning guy?). The chaos from this potential filing will thicken because the future of the franchise tag and whether or not it will still apply has yet to be determined. There is the possibility–albeit a small one at this point–that Manning could become a free agent.
In other pessimistic news, establishing the specifics of a rookie wage scale is still an annoying, pesky little hurdle.
One day we’ll look back on all of this and laugh, like good friends remembering high school. Until then, stay safe out there.
UPDATE: Florio followed up with his source regarding several details of the players’ potential injunction, including the possibility of Manning becoming a free agent. If Nelson lifts the lockout for unsigned players and rookies the league will likely implement temporary rules, which will include the franchise tag remaining in place.