NFL’s proposal isn’t a “first offer”

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With the NFL issuing a statement on Thursday placing the CBA ball on the proverbial tee, some have regarded this gesture as the extension of a “first offer” by the league. It’s not.

The proposal that the league accepted represents the culmination of months of negotiation. Starting several weeks ago, the NFL Players Association presented the proposal to its 32-member board of player representatives. There was, as of three weeks ago, unexpected pushback, with plenty of player representatives still resisting the basic concept of playing 17 games.

The effort by the union to secure approval of the proposal has remained a challenge, and Thursday’s gesture by the league quite possibly was aimed at framing the issue for what it is: There’s an agreement that the negotiators believe is acceptable, and the NFLPA now must decide whether to accept it.

That’s a fry cry from a standard “first offer” that represents a fraction of the eventual bottom-line position. The league has moved toward its bottom-line position during months of negotiation in order to get a deal in place before the new league year and, perhaps more importantly, to allow the league to turn its attention to landmark new TV deals while riding a ratings high and possibly the final months of a buoyant economy.

While there’s still room for some negotiation (which may be the simplest explanation for NFLPA Executive Committee member Richard Sherman objecting to the deal on Twitter), the deal that has been summarized by the union is the deal that the negotiators have crafted. The mere that that the deal is being presented to union leadership means that the people paid to negotiate the deal believe that the deal is good enough.

The only question at this point is whether the union will defer to the experts they’ve hired to handle these matters, or whether the union will decide to throw back the current proposal, and embark into 18-24 months of uncertainty and, potentially, an eventual offer not as good as the one currently on the table.