As we head into this mid-July weekend, optimism is spewing forth wherever you look that the NFL owners and players will come to an official agreement on a CBA sometime next week. The owners are holding meetings on Thursday July 21 and the goal appears to be to have a deal the executive committee can present to the entire ownership for a vote. I believe 24 of 32 owners have to approve the deal. The players would likewise need to hold a vote to approve the deal.
There had been numerous stumbling blocks along the way the last few weeks and another big one seemed to be cleared. The owners had been hoping to hold onto a right of first refusal tag due to the increased number of free agents. The reduction of required years for unrestricted free agency means the 2011 class of NFL free agents will be fairly large. The owners wanted a chance to tag two or three players with what amounted to restricted free agency minus draft pick compensation. Earlier this afternoon they dropped that request.
Where does that leave us? Well, there are still details to be worked out and I would argue some of these details could still trip things up. I'm entirely optimistic a deal can be done but there are some interesting issues still in play. The two sides have been discussing "culture of football" issues that relate to player safety. This has gotten negotiations into the number of offseason training activities and other player safety issues. The player safety issues have raised all sorts of problems and I'm curious to see how they resolve that, if at all. I wouldn't be surprised if they shelve some of the issues for down the road in some manner.
One other issue that was being discussed at one point was the payment of 2011 workout bonuses. With no OTAs or minicamps, this is a detail that will need to be resolved, particularly given the fact that some players have six figure bonuses at stake.
The good news is that we haven't had any cold water thrown on the proceedings yet. Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith will reportedly meet tomorrow for some more discussions. This will be going on while the lawyers and finance folks are working on language issues. Although I'm sure Goodell and Smith have spoken on previous weekends, this is the first formal mention of weekend discussions between the two, which I view as yet another positive sign.
The two sides are scheduled to meet with Judge Arthur Boylan on Tuesday in his chambers. Before any CBA can be announced they need to figure out a settlement to the underlying lawsuit and the deal needs to be approved by the 8th Circuit. I'd imagine Boylan will help finalize that so the CBA could then be presented to both sides for a vote later next week.