The candid comments of Antonio Cromartie, who’ll see his shot at free agency blocked by a lockout, triggered a realization by many last week that a lockout is indeed coming, absent a new labor deal.
With hundreds of players due to be free agents, a lockout could cause plenty of the players who are seeing their paydays delayed to rebel against the union, possibly forcing the union to accept whatever terms the league will be offering.
But some league insiders remain convinced that the NFL is bluffing about a lockout, and that come March 4 the league will declare an impasse and impose the terms of its last, best offer before the impasse was reached. (It’s the “March 4 surprise” that we mentioned a couple of weeks ago.)
Of course, the terms imposed by the league will likely be less than the ultimate best offer, since further negotiation after impasse is declared will require the league as a practical matter to make concessions.
If that’s what happens, then the onus will fall on the players to accept the terms and continue to negotiate, or to strike. (The union undoubtedly would file a claim with the National Labor Relations Board arguing that impasse had not yet been reached.) Given all the rhetoric from the union about the financial harm that will be suffered in the event of a work stoppage, it will be difficult if not impossible for NFLPA leadership to stage a strike.
With Super Bowl week in Dallas providing a big-like-Texas stage for the two sides to continue their posturings and pissing matches, we’ll be watching for signs that would suggest a declaration of impasse is, or isn’t, coming. For now, those who believe that the league won’t be locking the doors are pointing to the stream of statements from those on the management side of the equation regarding the necessity for urgency at the bargaining table. If the league decides to declare impasse, the argument will be that the union dragged its feet in the hopes that the end result would be a lockout.