"Bloody Thursday" is on.
NFL owners met for less than an hour on Thursday morning and voted - supposedly with a single unanimous voice - to break off further talks with the NFL Players Association.
The move effectively shatters the image of labor peace that the NFL has enjoyed over the last decade, and puts in motion a free agency period that could result in some of the most draconian player cuts in recent memory.
In line with Scout.com's news-breaking reports last weekend, the salary cap will remain at $94.5 million, leaving many NFL clubs in the position of having to shed veteran players in order to be under the cap by midnight Thursday. Many around the NFL had placed the nickname of "Bloody Thursday" on such a turn of events.
A few NFL clubs are in a good cap shape and are in a position to take advantage of the talent windfall. Among the teams with cap room to allow spending are the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers. Other teams, such as the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs, are in a position where they will need to release a significant amount of payroll to get under the cap.
While short-term attention is focused on the impact to this year's free agency period, long-term impact is likely to be much more significant. The prospect of serious labor strife is now very real, and the NFL's concepts of guaranteed contracts, limited free agency, and even the NFL draft could be significantly changed. At present, the 2007 season will take place without a salary cap, a situation that may cause a significant change in the level of competitive balance the NFL has enjoyed in recent years.