We’ve talked a lot about hurdles recently. There are big ones, small ones, and now there’s apparently a new size: hurdles so small that they can be rolled and folded into one truly minuscule object.
A jump is not required to clear this hurdle, as a simple large, bounding step will suffice.
This is where we’re at with the labor negotiations between the players and owners in the early afternoon hours of Monday, two days after feverish progress made us as giddy as a 13-year-old girl at a Taylor Swift concert. The hurdle talk continues, and for those with pessimism still streaming through their veins, it is indeed true that the smallest hurdle can morph into a large, difficult, and contentious issue.
Right now that seems unlikely, although we’re keenly aware that making predictions during this lockout only invites failure and ridicule (we were soooo close with that July 8 call). So we won’t make a prediction, because that’s too scary. We’ll just say that at this point a meltdown over the remaining issues would be truly surprising, especially after several sources reported that the league has sent a memo to all 32 teams asking for up to four executives from each club to be at a seminar Friday. Ideally a new CBA will be ratified at Thursday’s owners meeting, and team officials will then be briefed Friday on how the new labor pact will affect league business.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier today that a global settlement is the goal. The two primary issues still cluttering that well-worn debate table are the resolution of the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit, and the television lockout insurance damages case, which the NFL Network’s Albert Breer says is the biggest issue still lingering. Schefter writes that these are the two hurdles that could be rolled into one much smaller hurdle–or in legal parlance, a global settlement.
A global settlement would mean that those two cases, along with the retired players’ lawsuit and all other legal issues, would be dropped if the players ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, which is expected to cover the next 10 seasons. That would be the quickest way to get the lockout lifted.
If the remaining legal issues are not rolled into a global settlement, it would be a very bad sign, potentially even stopping progress.
Talks between the players and owners are continuing today in New York, with Judge Arthur Boylan likely joining negotiations later in the day. Meanwhile, in Washington the players’ executive committee is meeting this week beginning today and continuing until Wednesday. The committee will meet with its player representatives to outline the details of the pending agreement, and the player reps will then report back to their teams.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is dedicated to doing “whatever is necessary” to end the lockout, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. This seems like the kind of macho bravado talk we’ve often heard from the public relations conscious commish since March, but this time Mort reports that Goodell is willing to fly to Washington to meet with the player executives and further explain the terms of the new labor deal, an agreement which reportedly will stay in place for the next decade.
As we’ve written in this space before, although an agreement in principle could potentially be reached as soon as this afternoon, it can’t be finalized until both sides vote independently on the new CBA. So the most optimistic and/or realistic (please consult the level of your glass) two-step to labor peace this week goes something like this:
- Mediation continues today and tomorrow to iron out the remaining issues and reach the global settlement, allowing the players to vote on the CBA at a meeting Wednesday. This is in line with Mort and Schefter’s sources, and will also require the players’ union to recertify.
- The owners then meet Thursday in Atlanta to give their rubber stamp, officially ratifying the new deal.
The dates for when teams are allowed to take a running cannonball into the free agency pool once a deal is ratified are still a little fuzzy. We just know that everything will happen fast. Really, really fast.
Mort reported over the weekend that a 72-hour window for teams to sign their own pending free agents will open on Friday, followed by the beginning of the new league year and glorious free agency on July 25. However, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal reports that free agency won’t begin until one week after the lockout officially ends (July 28), assuming of course that it ends on Thursday.
Either way we’re potentially, maybe, likely as much as 10 days, or little as seven days away from blissful NFL normalcy.