On Thursday, after word emerged that the league and the players’ union would continue their negotiations with the involvement of a mediator after more than seven days without meetings, we reported that the two sides had agreed to engage in seven straight days of face-to-face negotiations.
Obviously, the two sides aren’t bound to that commitment, and either party could walk away at any time. Through three days of talks, however, no one has stormed out.
Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that, over the last three days, the parties have spent roughly 20 hours negotiating. Per Breer, they’ll be at it again on Monday.
The fact that the talks are continuing and that the two sides are honoring the vow of silence indicates that the two parties are serious about getting a deal done. At the current pace, the parties will continue to talk through Thursday, the seventh day of negotiations.
One potential buzz kill comes from the February 24 hearing in the “lockout insurance” case, which needs to proceed if the union hopes to have a shot at conjuring any real leverage before March 4, the day on which the current labor deal expires. It will be important for the lawyers to not say or do anything at the hearing that could disrupt the momentum, if any, that has been built at the bargaining table.
Friday, the union will meet with all agents in Indianapolis. At that time, the agreement not to talk about the negotiations will face its stiffest test yet, as the union leadership strikes the balance between informing the hundreds of assembled agents and keeping that information secret.
The best approach would be for the two sides to work out an agreement on all major issues by Thursday, and to then commence the process of obtaining approval from the owners and from the players.
From the league’s perspective, 24 of 32 owners must agree. Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported in his excellent profile of Commissioner Roger Goodell that, if/when Goodell recommends a deal, more than enough owners will agree to its terms. For the players, a simple majority is needed to accept the contract. If the Executive Committee and the board of player representatives sign off, it’s likely that the players will agree, too.
It could be more than a bit optimistic to hope for an agreement in principle by Thursday night. But it also would have been more than a bit optimistic as of last Thursday morning to hope for 20 hours of direct bargaining before sunset on Sunday.