NFL Labor Talks Extended Seven Days: All Hail Judge Doty

Wow. We may avoid a lockout after all. On Friday, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to another extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And this time, it's for a full week. Adam Schefter just recently confirmed the extension. All signs point towards George Cohen continued to mediate the negotiations process. Keep doing what you're doing George!

I was skeptical that an agreement would be reached and a lockout avoided, but all signs now incredibly point to an agreement being worked out some time next week. What a dramatic turn of events for the better. There's still work to be done and negotiations could still take a turn for the worst. But for the first time really, I'd say that the odds are in favor of an agreement being reached before the expiration of the CBA.

It's been tough to write about the infinitely complicated labor dispute.  I've shied away from editorializing too frequently about the sordid mess the past calendar year or so primarily because it's extremely difficult to wrap one's head around all the myriad factors that carry weight in the negotiation process. I definitely don't understand the fine print of what's being negotiated, but I have always felt confident that there is nothing more important to NFL owners than solidifying and bolstering the insanely lucrative television contracts they've brokered with CBS, FOX, ESPN, and NBC.

In fact, the first time I really spoke out on the whole ordeal was when I shared my thoughts about how the owners held an insurmountable advantage in the negotiation process -- guaranteed revenue from lucrative television contracts that would line their pockets in 2011 even if there was no season. Sure, the sums would have been lower without a full slate of games being played, but unlike the players who were left out in the cold entirely, owners incurred no real risk by playing hardball and waiting for a large un-unified union of players to acquiesce to their demands.

The owners lost that massive leverage on Tuesday thanks to a the ruling of U.S. District Judge David Doty.

The issue was the NFL’s actions in the run-up to the end of the CBA. Doty exposed how the league abandoned its fiduciary responsibilities by giving away potential revenue streams in exchange for broadcast networks agreeing to a collective $4 billion in money even if there was no 2011 season.

The pay-for-no-play deal was the owners’ strongest weapon, allowing those with considerable debt service on stadiums to breeze along even in the absence of a season. It was also unfair to the players, who count on the league to engage in good faith business practices to maximize revenue.

I encourage you to read that entire article about Doty's ruling on the television contracts. It's an interesting look at some of the details of the primary driver of the NFL's explosive growth in popularity and revenue in recent years. It sure seems like the owners have changed their stance and strategy dramatically since the ruling. No guaranteed TV money = horrifying proposition. The decision has gotten the owners to the table, and now it sure appears like it's only a matter of time before a reasonable deal is reached.

Do note that all free agents are now in a holding pattern and cannot sign anywhere. The agreement extends the labor negotiations, but the deadline for players to sign was not extended.

Stay tuned. We may be in store for some good news next week.

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