After a couple of days of confusion and conflicting reports as to where and when the NFL and the NFLPA* would continue their talks aimed at working out a new labor deal, it now appears that the parties will be back at it on Monday in New York.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan will join the talks on Monday, not Tuesday.
Originally, the parties were expected to meet with Boylan in Minneapolis on Tuesday. By the end of the day on Friday, it appeared that any further meetings with Judge Boylan would be perfunctory at most, given the widespread reports and belief that a deal was on the verge of being done.
But something happened on the way to a fresh 10 years of labor peace. Collateral issues that one or both sides presumed would be easily resolved now that the truly hard work is done have become thornier than expected. And so it should be no surprise that Judge Boylan has decided that it makes more sense to meet on Monday.
The remaining hurdles, as outlined Sunday night by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, are as follows:
1. The players want $320 million in unpaid benefits during the uncapped year to be restored.
2. The players want the franchise tag to be limited to one year in use. Currently, teams can apply it for two years before the price of the tag rockets to the average of the five highest-paid quarterbacks, regardless of the position that the franchise player normally plays. (Obviously, if the player is a quarterback, it doesn’t matter.)
3. The 10 named plaintiffs must sign off on the settlement of the lawsuit. Some have speculated, possibly with more than speculation in their pockets, that Patriots guard Logan Mankins and/or Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson will want to be free agents, despite having been slapped with the franchise tag. Other named plaintiffs not due to become free agents in 2011 could want similar consideration. (I’ll elaborate and editorialize during Monday’s PFT Live, at 12:00 p.m. ET.)
4. The owners want to close the California loophole for workers’ compensation claims. Currently, a player can file in California, widely viewed as a very employee-friendly forum, if he has played only one game their during his career. As a result, plenty do; the NFL wants to compel the players to file for benefits in the state in which they played their home games when injured.
5. The “lockout insurance” case must be resolved. In May, Judge David Doty held a hearing on the question of the damages the NFL should pay for leaving money on the table in rights fees in order to persuade the networks to commit to paying billions during 2011, even if there’s no football. The players are entitled to 59.6 percent of whatever the league could have generated in 2009 and 2010 if the league had dropped the “lockout insurance” term. Mort suggests that the players will use this claim as leverage to get the $320 million in benefits that weren’t paid during the uncapped year.
Despite these potentially challenging issues, a sense of optimism remains that a deal will be finalized in the next two days, primarily since the toughest part is now over. As Mort pointed out Friday on Twitter, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones declared to negotiators on Friday that the process is now done to “circumcising mosquitoes.”
In unrelated news, Tim Tebow is joining the talks on Monday.
Regardless of who actually is or isn’t there, here’s hoping that they finally get this thing done by the time the sun sets on Tuesday.
Primarily because it’s a lot harder to do circumcisions in the dark.