NFL Labor Negotiations: The Most Important Week....Since Last Week

Now that the Independence Day holiday weekend has come to a close, NFL owners and players will get back to the negotiating tables in hopes of hammering out some kind of collective bargaining agreement soon. We're fast approaching the drop-dead date at which point the preseason will start to be impacted. While there is flexibility on the exact day, sometime around July 10 is a good guesstimation on when a deal needs to be done. You could conceivably go beyond that but there's not much wiggle room after this week.

There has actually been some question about whether the players might be more inclined to push negotiations a bit longer so they can cut down training camp and miss some preseason games. Players have wanted fewer preseason games in general and mix in veterans facing less competition from rookies and it certainly seems logical from that angle. At the same time, lost preseason games means lost revenue that cannot be shared with the players. I'd imagine players do not want to lose out on upwards of $800 million (that number is not completely verified).

Things got a little sticky last week as talks went backwards a bit on the main revenue question. However, it sounds like the late bargaining session on Thursday and into Friday got things somewhat back on track as they seem back near the 48% that was mentioned in previous weeks. The latest snag in talks seems to revolve around a "legacy fund" for retired players. Some reports have union-side lawyers holding things up on what most don't view as a particularly key aspect of the deal.

Before anybody jumps on the lawyers or the union, there aren't a lot of details out regarding this issue. If you were to do a google search of NFL labor news over the past three weeks, it would come across as quite the roller coaster ride of emotions. One day a deal seems mere days away. Another day, both sides are claiming the media is being overly optimistic about the progress of negotiations. At this point, it's probably just easiest to assume everything is an exaggeration one way or the other. Until we hear both sides are voting on the parameters of a deal, it's probably easiest to assume nothing is as bad or as good as is being reported.

One thing that is outside of negotiations and could be troublesome is a class-action complaint filed by some former players. Part of the current negotiations involve issues related to former players such as pension and health benefits. Some former players believe that with the decertification of the union means they are not allowed to negotiate these particular benefits on behalf of a third party. The former players want to be more involved in the negotiations and are seeking to enjoin the mediation sessions unless they are allowed further involvement.

The former players filed this complaint on Monday (didn't know federal courts were open on a holiday) so it is too soon to know how this will impact the current negotiations. Ideally the players and owners would get a deal worked out in the next week and deal with the former players after that.

We'll be back with more updates as the week goes on, although we'll try and keep the updates as substantive as possible.

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