Now that I’ve had a chance to get the rest of the IV sedative out of my system and otherwise recover from Tuesday’s necessary evil (which wasn’t nearly as evil as I thought it would be), I’m ready to articulate my interpretation of the latest round of labor talks.
For starters, four days of negotiations are twice as good as two, and the willingness to double down indicates the kind of commitment needed to get a deal done.
The fact that the owners and players aren’t present strongly suggests that the process has moved from concepts to concrete, with the lawyers taking all the things on which the parties agree and creating the guts of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. At one point in the past few weeks, there was a report that the process was 80-to-85 percent complete. The reality is that 85 percent or more of the expired CBA wasn’t in dispute in the first place. The parties were focused on several big issues and a group of secondary matters, with much of the arrangement between them not in question.
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.
The decision of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith to fly to Florida on Tuesday and return on Wednesday so that Goodell can speak at — and thus fully legitimize — the NFLPA* rookie symposium has much more meaning than we (I) first thought. If this thing wasn’t close to being done, there’s no way this happens. And if there was any reason to think a roadblock to resolution could happen, at a minimum the two men would have traveled separately.
I’m not just saying all of this because it meshes, sort of, with my prediction of an agreement in principle by Thursday, June 30. Albert Breer of NFL Network says that “[t]he 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.” Also, deeply buried in Jason Cole’s report on the Carl Eller class action was this potential treasure trove: “A source very familiar with the circumstances indicated that the lawyers were working on paperwork toward a possible settlement.”
We’ve suspected for two weeks that the process is much closer to completion than the parties are letting on, but that both sides wanted to avoid creating a sense that an agreement was inevitable, in order to allow the issues to be resolved without the weight of media and fan expectations — and without one side feeling compelled to give in if the other side decided to take a hard line as to any lingering issues.
As we’ve said before, it would be brilliant for the parties to announce that the situation has been resolved before the upcoming three-day weekend. Though that may not mean the announcement of a handshake deal on Thursday, it could mean the announcement of a dotted-i’s and crossed-t’s legal document being filed in court on Friday.
That would be even better. Since it would mean that a handshake deal already was in place, and that the parties agreed it was in their mutual interests to keep it quiet until the paperwork was complete.