The NFL's labor talks recommenced today in Minnesota and are scheduled to last four days, in what would be the longest negotiating session to date. These meetings are reportedly being conducted solely by Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and their respective legal teams, without the presence of players and owners. The two sides are reportedly focusing now on the potential rookie wage scale and how to ensure that the money previously spent on draft choices would be reallocated to the benefit of veteran players. Meanwhile, Chris Mortensen is reporting that the players and owners involved in the previous talks may rejoin these sessions later in the week, and that player reps would participate in a conference call today to be updated on the negotiations.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter are reporting that the basis of the next CBA as is presently being negotiated will be a 48% payout of all revenue for the players. This would omit the $1 billion-plus in expense credits that had come off the top before the players got their cut in the previous CBA, and also disinclude the extra $1 billion "haircut" NFL owners had sought earlier on. Apparently, owners will be able to claim expense credits to help pay for new stadiums, but the players' cut would never fall below 46.5 percent of revenue in those instances.
The new deal will reportedly include a new rookie pay scale, but the details of that are still being worked out. Plus, teams will be required to spend to at least 90-93% of the salary cap each year - a stipulation which surely will alarm the smaller market teams like the Bills and Bengals as mentioned in Ted's article earlier today. Among other details, players would reach unrestricted free agency after four seasons and would never be forced to play an 18-game schedule.
UPDATE 7:50PM ET - LJ has an update on the status of the Broncos' potential free agents, and it looks like I erred on Prater and Woodyard - according to LJ, those two players would remain restricted free agents, while Harris and Thomas would be unrestricted. After looking again at each player's profile, I believe Jones' information to be correct and my earlier update to be wrong. Sorry for the confusion, folks.
Hopefully Mike Freeman knows what he's talking about. The bearer of much of the recent positive news surrounding the labor talks has polled his league contacts and found that there are only four owners likely to vote against the new CBA as is being negotiated: Buffalo's Ralph Wilson, Cincy's Mike Brown, Dallas' Jerry Jones and Washington's Daniel Snyder. Naturally, Al Davis falls under the who knows? designation, while Wayne Weaver in Jacksonville is an unknown quantity at this point, as far as Freeman's sources go. A coalition of nine owners would be required to nix any deal, as 24 of 32 votes are necessary for passage; so if Freeman's contacts are correct then things are indeed looking good.
Notice that Freeman writes, "this is how some in football think," rather than the arrogant "most people in the NFL" or "most NFL evaluators" sort of garbage we Broncos fans have been passionately served in recent years...
Mike Freeman of CBS Sports has more encouraging news on the labor front, as he is reporting that the players and owners have made so much progress in their talks that some involved believe an agreement will be reached in a matter of days. Although Freeman writes that nothing is set in stone, he quotes his source as saying that "It's going to be very difficult for this to get screwed up."
He also writes that the atmosphere of mistrust that had dominated the lockout has all but disappeared, and that in addition to the earlier reported dinner De Smith and Roger Goodell had together, players and owners have been sharing private lunches. Apparently the lawyers for both sides are again involved, but at this juncture it's seen as a positive development indicating that the negotiations are getting down to the details.
As mentioned in today's Lard, the NFL's owners and players reconvened for more labor negotiations yesterday, this time at a hotel in NYC. The talks are said to be continuing into today, and according to Jason La Canfora, are expected to again stretch for "several days" and featuring the same cast of characters as last week's negotiations (ie. no lawyers save for De Smith).
Meanwhile, Mike Freeman of CBS wrote this morning that the two sides "continue to close the gap on significant issues and there remains a slim chance a deal is reached before the 8th circuit rules in July." Freeman also writes that he believes the 2011 NFL season "is no longer in jeopardy."
My highly educated guess: one of them is the owners continuing to come down significantly from their original demand of taking another $1 billion off the top of player earnings. The players always believed this was an outrageous demand and the players were right.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the two sides appeared in St. Louis today before the Eighth Circuit to argue the validity of the lockout. According to Andrew Brandt, the tenor of the hearing was a direct contrast to that which was presided over by Judge Susan Nelson and resulted in the lockout injunction. Brandt writes that the two Republican-leaning judges appeared to be "empathetic to the Owners' argument" and expects they'll rule in the league's favor.
Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal has just tweeted the following:
The minnesota federal court has cancelled mediation set next week saying it is engaged in confidential settlement talks with the parties
Obviously we don't want to jump to any conclusions, but this is good news.
UPDATE 3:48PM ET - Liz Mullen has just shared Judge Boylan's order via Twitter:
Whereas, the Court has been engaged in confidential settlement discussions involving the above captioned matter it deems it appropriate to cancel the mediation session previously scheduled in Minneapolis for June 7 and June 8.
More to come...
UPDATE 2:30PM ET - The players and owners have released a brief joint statement which reads,
The parties met pursuant to court mediation. Owners and players were engaged in confidential discussions before Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan. The court has ordered continued confidentiality of the mediation sessions.
According to Judy Battista, the meetings actually commenced earlier in the week and that while Judge Boylan was present, he did not preside over the negotiations. Plus, the nature of the meetings were so secretive that several NFL owners were not made aware of them until after they had already begun.
NFL Coaches Association has filed an amicus brief supporting players written and filed by a Duke law professor, Barak D. Richman. The coaches seem to be strongly supporting the players, and claim that the NFL is ‘avoiding’ the Sherman Act.
The coaches - both head and assistant - go on to say that "New coaches especially need time with players, which is why league rules normally permit new coaching staffs to organize two additional minicamps with players over the summer." It goes on to point out that, "This offseason, NFL teams hired an unusually large number of new head coaches with no previous head coaching experience, each of whom-along with their assistants-face a steep learning curve & desperately need this time to prepare their teams." The coaches then cite irreparable harm, and say that: "Damages would not be an adequate remedy for NFL coaches who suffer from the NFL’s illegal group boycott." The coaches' brief also includes charts that show the uptick in coaches fired after two years, and after three years from 2001 to '10.
While this is hardly a major game-changer in the situation, it does show that the head coaches are willing to challenge the statements of the owners in court. Increasingly, fans are turning against both sides, wondering why they can’t split up $9 billion. The coaches are showing a desire for reason and to be given a chance to be permitted to do their jobs, and I fully support that position, and hope that it brings some small level of order to this increasingly pointless circumstance.
Second-year Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox pleaded not guilty today to two felony charges he faces stemming from an alleged sexual assault that occurred last September. Cox's trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, October 18 which is just after the Broncos' Week 6 bye. There's been no word out of Dove Valley as to what the 2010 fifth-rounder's status will be for the upcoming season, but it's hard to imagine Cox remaining on the Broncos' active roster this season while facing such serious charges (sexual assault while the victim was physically helpless and sexual assault while the victim was incapable of determining the nature of the conduct). If found guilty, Cox could face two years to as much as life in prison.
At first glance, it would appear the only feasible options for Cox would be to leave the team or face suspension from the Broncos. This is purely speculation on our part, but the distraction of a trial in this case will already loom large over the Broncos' season - and it has the potential to be quite detrimental to the team's image while perhaps even impacting their performance on the field. Having Cox suit up in uniform for any part of the year up to and including the trial seems a morally questionable possibility at best. As always, any ideas from our readership as to how Denver may proceed (legally or within the framework of NFL rules) are welcome in the comments..