We’ve said before that we’re tired of writing sentences containing words like “close” and “imminent,” but that’s a blatant lie. Those words fill us with tremendous joy, and here early on a sunny summer Friday evening, we head into the weekend with those words carrying more meaning towards the NFL lockout than they have in quite some time.
Albert Breer’s report earlier today stating that the economics are in place for a new CBA cranked the optimism knob on the labor negotiating dashboard to its highest level. The salary cap will be roughly $130 million, and Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network reported that teams will be required to spend 90 percent of the cap.
After Breer started the hopeful thinking, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal ripped the optimism knob right off when she tweeted around 3 p.m. that there was a legitimate possibility of a “global settlement” being reached today. That didn’t happen, but positive momentum kept pushing the talks forward, and now according to Breer only two major issues remain: piecing together the actual legalease of the settlement details in the Brady v. NFL case, and all issues relating to player safety. Breer also reports that the retiree benefits package–dubbed the Legacy Fund–is no longer seen as a stumbling block in negotiations, and will likely be worked out as part of the settlement.
It’s now unhealthy to stare at the blinding light at the end of the labor tunnel for too long. In a joint statement issued after their significant progress over the last 48 hours, the players and owners said that although the primary voices for both sides are heading home for the weekend, the lawyers will keep working.
“The discussions this week have been constructive and progress has been made on a wide range of issues. Our legal and financial teams will continue to work through the weekend. We will continue to respect the confidentiality orders of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan and will therefore refrain from commenting on specific issues or aspect of the negotiations. We will provide additional information (as) developments in this process continue.”
That’s right, they’re workin’ for the weekend, and as Breer also reports (because he reports everything) Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith will either meet or talk during the weekend. It seems to me there’s a deadline of some kind looming, and these chaps are taking this lockout resolution business rather seriously.
That deadline of course is the scheduled beginning of training camps and the preseason, also known as the date when the owners start to lose revenue. The Bears and Rams are slated to report to camp in exactly one week and begin preparations for their Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 7 against the Rams. Bears head coach Lovie Smith says he’ll be ready, but first he needs permission to talk to his players.
Both sides will sit back down at that all-too-familiar negotiating table on Monday, but this time the table will be in Minnesota as Judge Arthur Boylan returns from vacation. Boylan’s presences fuels further optimism for the few remaining hurdles to be cleared, and if that happens then a handshake deal could take place early next week.
Smug business terms like “handshake deal” are being bounced around frequently because a new CBA can’t be officially finalized until its voted on by the owners at their meeting in Atlanta next Thursday. Any deal prior to that would be made in principle only.
Other details like the future of the players’ union after their decertification (will they re-form or simply continue as a trade organization?) will also have to be ironed out into a nice, neat little conclusion.
Or at least that’s the kind of conclusion we’re all hoping for, because we broke our pessimism knob too, and perhaps prematurely popped open the Ace of Spades Midas Champagne.