The framework that has emerged demonstrates the progress they have made in just a few weeks, and judging from some of the information revealed in recent days, the four-month lockout was more about posturing than deep philosophical differences.
The upside, according to labor experts, is that they’ve put both traits aside and begun finalizing a deal with mutual benefits.
“What I think is going on is that they’ve finally gotten down to what they should’ve done six months ago, and that’s bargain,” said Detroit-based employment attorney John Hancock Jr. of Butzel Long. “I never figured out why they went in there so adversarial. They have this golden goose, they were strangling it. … I think they’ve realized, ‘what are we doing to each other?’, and that’s something they should’ve done in March (before the lockout began).”
BLOG: Deal within striking distance
Two days of meetings in Hull, Mass., outside of Boston, ended Thursday with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith echoing a mutual commitment to reach an agreement soon that returns the league to work. It was the fourth in a series of “secret” meetings between the sides that are expected to continue next week, though the venue was unknown late Thursday.
Among the proposals is a revenue split that would give players a nearly 50% share of $9.3 billion while eliminating the owners’ request for $1 billion off the top for expense credits. Teams would also have to spend at least 90% of the salary cap.
The NFL Network reported that a rookie wage scale was also discussed for the first time on Thursday, with improvements in retirement benefits also under consideration. The Associated Press reported that a lengthy CBA of six to eight years is being sought to allow the league to turn to its broadcast partners and negotiate more lucrative contracts.
Hancock notes that such clarity is normal in labor negotiations as deadlines draw closer and both sides realize what could be lost if a standoff continues. But he also said that’s when details must be more defined, requiring as much time as necessary to be decided.
“When they’re meeting this much, they’re reaching some kind of agreement at this point,” said Hancock, who expects an agreement in principle within two weeks with a more formal deal in place by mid-July, when camps are scheduled to open.
Neither Smith nor Goodell offered specific details after Thursday’s session, sticking to a judge’s order banning comment on negotiations. But their comments were nearly similar and they even shook hands for the first time since the lockout began.
The next step: defining the devil in the details.
“I think both of us feel strongly that we’re going to continue