With the NFL and its players engaged in the longest legal battle in NFL history, the Clash of the Titans is slowly losing speed and is coming to an end. There are two groups of players (unrestricted free agents and college street free agents) in limbo, awaiting their fate once the lockout is lifted and the new NFL year begins (opening free agency).
With DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell traveling to the NFLPA Rookie Symposium in Sarasota, Fla., lawyers from both sides got a head start on the process of dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s.” It appears as if Smith and Goodell are making progress without the presence of the owners and players.
The proposal introduced to the public last week by the owners is quickly taking shape. A source says, “The ideas and concepts from that proposal was a great starting point and has brought us to this point.” I still feel the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is a thorn in the side of both parties. The three judges have not ruled on the case before them, prompting the owners and players to sit down and work through their differences and come up with a new CBA that works for both sides. The days between July 5-8 are a major window of forced opportunity.
I agree with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.com when he wrote, “Streamlining the process of documenting the matters on which they agree and ironing out the remaining areas of disagreement gives the parties a chance to present to the federal court in Minnesota the paperwork necessary to launch in earnest the process for approving the settlement of the Tom Brady class action as of Tuesday, July 5, the first business day after the Fourth of July weekend. The fact that the talks are being held in Minnesota could be, in this regard, much more than coincidental or symbolic. If they get the paperwork completed, they’ll be in position to file it quickly. If they have questions about the format of the filings necessary to get things moving quickly for court approval, they can communicate directly with Judge Susan Nelson and/or her staff.”
I still have a gut feeling that the two sides are still a few weeks away from settling on a new CBA, and I made that statement last month on 101ESPN’s Pro Football Sunday hosted by Howard Balzer. I still maintain that mid-July is when the urgency will escalate, forcing both to see the light, the green light of future revenue opportunities for both sides and the increased pension and improved insurance package for all retired NFL players as well.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network commented that, “The parties’ legal teams are expected to trade proposals on the framework of a settlement, in an effort to move the process toward conclusion, and they will intensify their focus on the key issues, most notably the revenue split.”
And Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported, “A source very familiar with the circumstances indicated that the lawyers were working on paperwork toward a possible settlement.”
With a lot of progress being made, negotiations still remain fragile. The approach moving forward for both the owners and players is totally cautious, despite pressing urgency to cut a deal by mid-July.