Players are "optimistic" that the NFL and NFLPA can come to terms on a new collective-bargaining agreement, according to a highly respected player rep, but they know that will take at least one more deadline extension.
The two sides agreed to a 24-hour extension that will expire Friday night, but they will likely work toward a longer extension — perhaps as long as a week or two — in that time period.
There are two major issues that have prevented the sides from reaching a new collective-bargaining agreement, according to the player rep, and that is the 18-game regular season as well as the owners' financial demands.
Several weeks ago, multiple league sources told NESN.com that an 18-game season was essentially a done deal, but the player rep indicated that's not necessarily the case. While the players are open to accepting the parameters for 18 games, they want to see some actual concessions from the owners, most notably in the form of prorated raises. But they also would like to get better healthcare plans and pension packages.
The other big snag hinges on the owners' financial demands. Currently, the owners take $1 billion off the top of the NFL's total revenue, and after that, the players receive 59.5 percent of the remaining revenue, which ends up working out to 41.5 percent of the total revenue, according to the player rep.
However, the owners now want $2 billion off the top, but they haven't told the players where they plan to spend that money — the "opening the books" argument — so the players aren't ready to budge without an explanation. The rep said the players are all for spending money to improve the game in any way possible, which shows that they could be prepared a proposal for the extra $1 bullion. But until the owners are more specific about their intentions with those financials, the two sides won't really get anywhere at the bargaining table.
The franchise tag and salary cap are also considered bargaining chips for both sides, but at this point, there doesn't appear to be any significant movement on either end, which could indicate each will stay in place.
The rookie salary scale has also been agreed upon, according to multiple league sources, and it's something both sides really wanted. If the CBA is reached before April's draft, the salary scale could be in place in time for the 2011 season.
There is no reason to believe all of this will be agreed upon by Friday, so that second extension will play a crucial role in the labor negotiations.