In what could be proof that the two sides really aren’t (contrary to what Drew Brees said Wednesday) “very close” to a labor deal — or in what possibly could be confirmation that they are — a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations tells PFT that the players could soon be filing a motion to end the lockout as to players not currently under contract.
In Friday’s ruling allowing the lockout generally to proceed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit concluded that, regarding the rookies and unsigned free agents, the lockout possibly could be prevented until they sign contracts. Though this ultimately is a distinction without a difference, the process of requiring the league to open the doors for the purposes of signing rookies and free agents before systematically locking each one out after giving them seven-figure-or-more signing bonuses would create, as the NFLPA* lawyers called it in a memo obtained by Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, a “bizarre chaos.” (Is there another kind?)
To trigger that “bizarre chaos,” the named plaintiffs in the Brady class action would be required to file a motion with Judge Susan Nelson, who would then hold a hearing as to whether the lockout should be lifted for players not currently under contract, until they are signed to new contracts.
The argument would specifically be advanced not only by named plaintiffs like rookie Von Miller and pending free agent Ben Leber, but also by Peyton Manning and Vincent Jackson, both of whom are named platintiffs and free agents — and both of whom have been restricted with the franchise tag. And so the “bizarre chaos” would include whether the Colts would be able to enforce the franchise tag, whether another team would try to sign Manning, and whether the players would claim collusion and/or contempt of court if Manning and other players receive no offers.
Bizarre or otherwise, it would indeed be chaos. And it’s the only real hammer that the NFLPA* currently have, short of walking away from the table and incurring the total and overwhelming wrath of the fans, and possibly enough current players to start a union of their own.
With the parties getting closer to an agreement, but also closer to an impasse on the remaining issues, it’s the one thing that could get the NFL to quit assuming that the players eventually will cave.
It’s unclear when the motion would be filed. Per the source, the tactic currently is on the radar screen.