Perhaps anticipating more opposition than they received, the owners were able to convene their Tuesday meeting in Chicago after five hours of talks. Word has slipped out on certain aspects of the proposal being made by owners, including rumors of the removal of the $1 billion the NFL would take off the top of any new deal, a 48-percent share of revenue being given to players with stronger restrictions requiring owners to spend up to future salary caps (which, by extension, would be included in a new CBA), as well as discussions of a new TV deal that would include a full 16-week Thursday Night Football schedule that, while currently aired on NFL Network, would be put out for open bids.
But, perhaps the biggest news to come out of the meetings was the expectation that free agency will be kicked back to what it was prior to the uncapped 2010 season – meaning that players with four seasons of service would be eligible for free agency.
If there would be a court-ordered end to the lockout, until matters were resolved, it is likely that the working conditions would have been under what the rules were when the lockout began – no salary cap and unrestricted free agency extended through six years instead of four. As such, when free agency would begin, the market would be greatly reduced from what it would be if the threshold was dropped back to four years.
Given those leaked parameters of some the meat and potatoes of the proposals being offered back and forth through in-person negotiations, it would appear that, of all the concessions being made by both sides, the free agency issue may be the most important. With so many players expected to become available, the signing frenzy (and the requirement for all teams to spend up to the salary cap) will need time to happen before training camps begin.
About a month ago, we threw out our projection of a settlement date of July 4. The league can co-brand with the flag both on the Fourth and on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 – the first scheduled Sunday of the 2011 season. Given the lack of vocal opposition to the proposal, that date is looking better all the time.
Now it's on to Boston, where the NFL can come to the players with the owners agreeing to the parameters of a deal. While lawyers likely won't "dumb it up" that much, the sentiment resonates. The ball, it would appear, is in the players' court. It may not be everything they want, but the owners bailed on the last CBA for a reason – they wanted more.
The eyes of the football world now set their gaze on Boston, as the summer U.S. tour of the owners and players association heads back east among the townies. This time, however, it is starting to look more and more like the home stretch of the tour may now be in sight.
Leber, who grew up in South Dakota, attended the annual Celebrity Football Camp at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. Leber told the local ABC-TV affiliate KSFY that he hopes to return to the Vikings, saying that his family enjoys the Twin Cities and the organization is strong in Minnesota. But, as an unsigned named plaintiff in the lawsuit against the NFL, it's anybody's guess as to whether that will negatively impact Leber or not. Leber and Brian Robison were among the named plaintiffs. The Vikings re-signed Robison and Leber may not be far behind, but if he hits the free-agent market, his marketability may be limited by those teams who aren't interested in guys whose names were on the documents that made the lockout official.
There is also talk about Favre to Tennessee. It must be summer. Favre rumors are starting. It's just that this time, Vikings fans aren't hanging on every word.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.