As it turns out, Thursday’s agreement to agree on a 24-hour deadline for the purposes of possibly agreeing to a new agreement wasn’t the day’s biggest development. Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, providing thorough and impressive detail as to the events that culminated in a deal to try to continue to make a deal, reports that “for the first time key figures in each camp believe a deal is highly achievable.”
And there’s no middle ground; the alternative, as one source explained it to Silver, is “Armageddon.”
More specifically, and as widely believed, the union would attempt to decertify and sue the league to block a lockout. Eventually, the union would file a lawsuit alleging antitrust violations based on free agency, draft, and other rules that inevitably would applied against a 32-company, non-union workforce. The league would fight every step of the way, trying to implement a lockout that eventually would deprive the players of game checks and, in time, prompt them to agree to the league’s terms.
Silver explains that, while the situation remains delicate, “the smart money is on a settlement.”
The dramatic shift comes in the wake of Tuesday’s “lockout insurance” ruling, which gave players their first real leverage in the talks. Though, as Silver explains it, the owners remained strident on Wednesday, the union’s intention to decertify and sue prompted the league to begin to move toward a deal.
Silver writes that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith “shined” on Thursday, pushing for a settlement and remaining reasonable, “even as others around them assumed more radical stances.” Along the way, Smith may have finally won the respect of owners who have been skeptical of his motives and his methods since he was hired nearly two years ago.
“They were convinced by Thursday evening that Smith was prepared to make a deal and believed others on [the union's] executive committee were less enthusiastic about agreeing to the general framework being discussed by the two sides,” Silver writes.
Silver explains that a deal, if it gets done, would be roughly equivalent to the terms on the table before former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw seized upon former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s desire to negotiate an agreement that would allow him to retire and “skewed the deal toward the union’s interests.” This would give the owners something between the current $1 billion off the top and the desired $2 billion off the top before the money is split, currently with the players getting 59.6 percent.
As to the other big issues, Silver thinks an 18-game season would be implemented (mistake), a rookie wage scale of some type would be adopted (good idea), and Judge David Doty no longer would be serving as the grand poobah of the CBA.
There’s still a long way to go, and a short time to get there. By the end of Friday, the two sides — working through the men they’ve hired to do deals like this — need to decide whether to let them do the deal, or whether the preferred alternative is an explosion of litigation and a lockout that will alienate many fans and politicians, especially if Silver’s report regarding a possible deal is accurate.
Indeed, Silver’s report could become a factor on Friday. If his info is correct (and we have no reason to think it isn’t), it means that one or more persons have broken the vow of silence in very a significant way.
That said, the fact that this information is coming to light could put even more pressure on those who are angling for a fight to get reasonable, since a fight that happens now would make those who choose the Armageddon option come off as even more unreasonable.
Either way, stay tuned. It should be an interesting day.
And possibly a very depressing day.
Or possibly a very good day.