On March 11, the league and the players had narrowed their gap to $320 million for 2011, with the NFL offering a salary cap per team of $141 million and the NFLPA wanting $151 million per team.
Nearly nine weeks later, with another round of mediation approaching, the gap apparently has gotten wider.
The players are believed to have increased their number to $159 million per team, characterizing the March 11 figure as a discount aimed at getting a deal done. We’re told that the league believes the move is aimed at allowing the players to continue to pursue their litigation strategy, in the hopes of gaining even more leverage.
Another problem arises from the reality that the total revenue pie for 2011 has begun to shrink, which would make it even harder to hit the $141 million per team the league offered in March. As a result, the normal incentive that would be created by the uncertainty of litigation simply doesn’t apply here, with each side opting to push for the ultimate leverage of a win in court in lieu of trying to work out a deal that works for each party.
That’s possibly why the league won’t take the option of shutting down all business operations off the table. If the appeals court concludes that the lockout should be lifted, the NFL will be backed into a corner, forced to allow the players to return to work and get paid while they pursue even more leverage by attacking any rules that the NFL imposes regarding free agency and the draft. From the perspective of the owners, it may be better to simply close the doors until the players finally cry, “Uncle.”