Good news from the labor front - the 24-hour extension agreed upon by the owners and players on Thursday has now turned into an additional week in which the current league year will not lapse. This will allow the owners and the players to continue the negotiations that have taken a more positive turn in recent days under the guidance of mediator George Cohen.
According to reports, there will not be specific negotiations through the weekend, but that doesn't mean there won't be talks of some sort. During the next seven days, teams will not be able to sign players, the NFLPA will not de-certify, and the NFL will not lock the players out. All health benefits will extend, and more and more, it seems that there is real motivation on both sides to get a deal done.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported today that most of yesterday's negotiations consisted of the owners trying to convince the players to extend the talks further, and the players asking for proof that the owners weren't just trying to delay the process of de-certification.
Before going into Friday morning's meeting, NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said, "If we can make the kind of progress that you needed to make to have a further extension, that's where we'd be looking."
As we have discussed before, several elements led to a more conciliatory tone from both sides. First, there was the ruling from Judge David Doty, reversing the previous ruling by Special Master Stephen Burbank that the owners were allowed to use the $4 billion in television money due them whether a season was played or not. Doty reversed the Burbank ruling with very specific language as to the nature of the NFL's dealings with several networks, including DIRECTV. And he was able to better understand the concept of "good faith."
And Doty very clearly stated that the owners did not act in the best interest of the players when they basically left money on the table, or extended current agreements without the opportunity to gain additional revenue, in exchange for loopholes allowing free money to go to the owners.
In addition to the loss of that revenue, the threat of decertification by the union was (and still is) a reality. The NFLPA must de-certify before the now-extended end of the league year, or it will lose its most effective weapon, because the CBA says that the union cannot de-certify for a period of six months after a lockout. They would also lose Doty as the arbiter of the de-certification case, which would throw their strategy into a series of legal uncertainties.
The week extension is probably the best possible option. It means that one side is not bending to the other's will and agreeing to a deal they will later regret (as the owners apparently did in 2006, leading to their opting out of the CBA in 2008), and it also means that the parties are not heading to their bunkers, preparing for war, and exhausting all their avenues.
It's not a new deal, but it's the next best thing.