One tangible sign that there has been significant progress towards a new CBA was the failure of the NFL to announce the 2006 salary cap today. As scout.com reported over the weekend, the salary cap for the 2006 season was expected to be announced on Monday. However, according to one NFL team that scout.com talked to on Monday, the cap announcement could be pushed back another 24-48 hours because of recent progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement. There are also rumors that the cap actually might be higher than first reported ($95 million).
In the Washington Post, Mark Maske says that “many front-office executives” seem certain that a new CBA is imminent. He wonders why there is private optimism when the last public word we had on the state of the negotiations, from Gene Upshaw, was all about doom and gloom:
Perhaps Tagliabue has sent back-channel signals to the clubs that the negotiations are going better than he and Upshaw have indicated publicly. The owners have scheduled a meeting for next Monday and Tuesday in Dallas, and executives from some teams believe that Tagliabue and Upshaw will reach an agreement by Wednesday and postpone the opening of free agency from Friday until March 10 to give Tagliabue time to get the owners to approve the labor deal and bring their contentious revenue-sharing debate to a close.
While Maske didn’t name any sources in his story, Alex Marvez of the Sun-Sentinel has a pretty good one:
The NFL appears on the verge of reaching agreement on a new labor pact with its players union.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Monday that progress has been made in talks about a Collective Bargaining Agreement extension.
"I feel that we'll likely have a deal," Jones said while attending the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Then there was this report by Adam Schefter of the NFL Network, which seems to echo and strengthen aspects of Scout.com's update:
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has advised all 32 teams that they will know by 4 p.m. ET on March 1 whether or not there is an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. That is also the day that each team will be informed of what this year's salary cap is going to be.
If there is an agreement by (the March 1st) deadline, chances are that the start of the league year and free agency would be deferred for a few days while both sides attempt to get the appropriate votes. Then free agency would kick off later next week, with teams having more of the breathing room that they all desire. Of course, both sides would have to ratify any agreement, but that shouldn't be much of a problem. The union's executive committee is scheduled to meet next week in Hawaii, while NFL owners are scheduled to meet March 9 in Dallas. There they would get the votes that each side needs to approve the deal.
But the key day is March 1. It will determine whether there is labor peace or total chaos.
Stay tuned to Seahawks.NET for further breaking developments.