I got an email recently asking why, as an Eagles writer, I’ve been spending so much time covering the lockout lately. After cursing the guy off and stealing his identity and ruining his credit, I calmed down a bit and got to thinking.
It’s true, I have been a little lockout-obsessed lately. For those of you who have been missing the regular daily Eagles content, I apologize. But the truth is that there really is no team news at the moment. There are reports and opinions and rumors; but that’s all they really are. Nothing has happened and nothing actually can happen until the lockout is over. That’s the whole point of a lockout.
Sure, I could write a dozen articles a week about where Kolb might go and how much we could get for him. I could break down every position on the roster and take guesses as to who will start at Mike, who might be released, and what positions we’ll target in free agency. But until we have a new CBA and we actually know, for certain, what free agency and rookie contracts and NFL rosters will look like under the new rules, there’s just no way to realistically predict anything at this point. It’s all just a dumb guessing game. As of right now, the lockout isn’t just the biggest story. It’s the only story.
I guess, if you’re really jonesing for some unfounded opinions and hypothetical scenarios about the Eagles’ plans for free agency, there are plenty of sites out there that provide it. Keep in mind, however, that those writers are the same guys who last year said Andy Reid was gonna be replaced by John Gruden. They said McNabb was going to get a new contract and Mike Vick was being traded to Carolina. This year they’ve made every conceivable guess about the lockout – saying it would never happen, it would never end, and everything in between – and somehow they’ve managed to be wrong every single time anyway. If you want to trust those guys for your “insider reports” and Eagles news, be my guest. Just try not to be shocked when we don’t sign Plaxico and Kolb doesn’t get traded to Arizona for Patrick Peterson.
Anyway. Thanks to these writers and others, today’s news about the NFL labor meetings in Washington and Atlanta was confusing, to say the least. Reports from earlier in the week had us all believing a new CBA would be signed, sealed and delivered no later than Thursday. But the day ended, everyone went home, and nothing had changed. Hmm.
The problem with most of the prevailing lockout logic right now is that reporters and analysts are projecting their own sense of urgency onto a group of athletes, team owners and lawyers who simply don’t share it. As Kevin Mawae told reporters today – just before players started filing out of the negotiating room and going home – “July 21st is not our deadline. Our only concern is getting the best deal possible for all players involved.” Or something to that effect.
His point, and mine, is that no one involved in this labor dispute cares what day it is. No one in there is going, “Well, ESPN said we were supposed to vote on this today. I’m not happy with it, but we better get it done now anyway.” Even now, three days before the Bears were supposed to open training camp, the main issue is still money, not time. And until the last signature hits the last page of a new CBA, there will still be money on the line. Deadlines and timetables are created by people like John Clayton and Chris Mortensen, and the only people who take them seriously are bloggers and fools.
The Reason There Won’t Be A New CBA This Weekend
I’ll break it down as simply as I can. Back in March, owners decided they didn’t like the current CBA they were locked in with players and opted out of it. Rather than try to renegotiate, DeMaurice Smith – the trial lawyer turned union rep – decided that the NFL Players Union should sue the owners for anti-trust violations and for taking extra money out of their $4 billion TV deals to stockpile in anticipation of work stoppage. In order to sue, however, the NFLPA had to decertify itself as a union so individual players – including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Vincent Jackson – could bring the case to court. After Smith decertified the union, owners began the lockout.
Now that all the lawsuits have come to naught and players were forced to negotiate with owners the old fashioned way, now that a new CBA has seemingly been agreed to in principle and both sides are ready to come to terms, there’s just one minor problem: The players can’t sign.
Thanks to De Smith’s brilliant labor strategy, the NFLPA is still decertified and can’t legally agree to an employment contract with the owners. And they can’t recertify until all the lawsuits have been settled. And the lawsuits can’t be settled because the players can’t agree on how they want to settle them.
Their meeting in D.C. today was set up solely for that purpose, and nearly every analyst in the country predicted they would reach an agreement quickly and come to a vote on the pending CBA agreement before day’s end. Then, we were told, owners would meet in Atlanta tomorrow, agree to the court settlement, vote on the CBA themselves and by Thursday night announce that the lockout was officially over. But none of it happened.
Instead, it seems players couldn’t reach an agreement on the settlement even among themselves. This might have something to do with the fact that the ten players specifically named as plaintiffs in the anti-trust suit actually have something to gain by refusing to drop the case. We have no way of knowing the specifics, but it looks like it’s going to take a little more than a day for players and owners to agree on a “global settlement” for the two lawsuits, and even then both sides will have to file motions and wait for the court to dismiss the cases before the union can file for recertification. Then, once the union has been reestablished, both sides will have to finally agree on a new CBA, have their legal teams notarize it and officially reopen for business.
We’re looking at Wednesday or Thursday of next week at the earliest, and possibly later depending on how long it takes the players to reach a consensus on both lawsuits. As always, I’m sorry to be the Negative Nancy here. Just trying to keep it real.
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