With not much time left before Thursday's owners meetings in Atlanta, legal teams for the owners and players continued in New York to hammer away at the parameters of a new collective bargaining agreement. With many of the major sticking points agreed upon and all big hurdles out of the way, a few issues remain. The hope now is that enough can be done for the player representatives to vote on the settlement that would charge the new deal on Wednesday, and the owners would ratify the new CBA on Thursday. If that happens, team facilities would open for business on Friday, with players hitting the fields for some activities soon after, and the first free-agency window possibly starting next Monday, July 25.
The remaining details, as put forth by Yahoo's own Michael Silver, are complex enough to keep everyone very busy in the meantime. The most prominent wrinkle right now is the approximately $320 million in lost benefits from 2010 that the NFLPA is asking for. As we detailed Monday on Shutdown Corner, these benefits lapsed in the uncapped season, and include performance-based pay, tuition reimbursement, supplemental health care, rehab and counseling, and 401(k) funding. The award for damages from Judge David Doty in the lockout insurance case could be the leverage the players need to force the owners to settle by paying those benefits after the fact.
Beyond that, there's also the matter of the named plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL lawsuit and the possible extended free-agent benefits they may receive. Two players, New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins and San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, are asking for special compensation — make them unrestricted free agents or pay them extra to accept franchise tags — and that could hold up the global settlement of all outstanding lawsuits that must happen before a new CBA can be ratified by both sides. The request put forth by Mankins and Jackson speaks to a larger point put forth by the players' side; the NFLPA would like to negotiate for the franchise tag to be applied to each player just once in their careers. The owners, who have already given up the right of first refusal request, probably won't look upon that too favorably, especially when the price to tag a player increases in each season.
Then, two less "exciting" issues must be dealt with. First, there's the ability for players to file workmen's compensation claims in California, which is generally a favorable practice for the players' side. The owners want a revision to the CBA that would force players to file their claims in the state in which the injury occurred. "That is really our only means of protection in terms of taking care of ourselves after football," one player told Silver. "I'm sure the [owners of] California teams feel like they bear an unfair burden, so maybe there's a way they can average it out among the teams and share the cost. But we're pretty dug in on that issue."
Once that issue is dealt with, the union must then re-certify, which shouldn't meet with any resistance at all. The votes to ratify on each side will not be unanimous — it's expected that owners Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals will oppose the deal, ostensibly due to the fact that they oppose any deal that doesn't treat players as if we were all back in the year 1959. Mankins and Jackson may hold up the deal due to their own specific circumstances, but it's likely they will eventually get some money or relief in a contract sense as part of the global settlement.
That's where we stand as of Tuesday morning — a lot has to happen Tuesday for everything to stick to schedule, and we'll keep you posted as things progress.