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NFL closing in on labor deal

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  July 15, 2011 12:52 PM

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While an agreement in principle is likely a few days away and then there will be some hoops to jump through in terms of getting a new agreement signed, the NFL and its players are closing in on a new labor agreement, according to sources.

Here’s what we know at this time:

  • As the NFL Network first reported, the economics of the deal - from the revenue split, rookie camp and salary cap – are essentially done. ESPN reported the salary cap will be $120 million with an additional $21 million in benefits. Someone on the players’ side is going to need to explain how benefits went from $26 million in 2009 to $21 million, at some point (more on this in a second);

  • We’re told negotiations on the football aspects of the deal – offseason schedule, player safety, drug testing, etc. – is going slower than expected today but isn’t considered a hurdle;

  • The LA Times reported possible safety changes include 33 percent fewer off-season practies, much fewer practices in helmets, and no workouts would be permitted before May 1. Voluntary workouts started March 15 under the old CBA;

  • The big hurdle left is how judicial oversight will be resolved. NFLPA executive director De Smith has earned much respect among the NFL rank and file by keeping legal counsel and chief NFL agitator Jeff Kessler out of the mix. But can Smith hold off Kessler on this topic?

  • SI.com and cbssports.com are reporting that Smith dropped a bomb on owners Wednesday night when he informed them the players bought insurance that would pay each of them $200,000 if the games were scrapped because of the lockout. We’re a little dubious of the effect this may have had. Those two reports made it out as a game-changer. An NFL source said it was not, that the changing point came on Thursday when Smith decided that it was time to make a deal. “De really stepped up,” the source said. “When he decided he wanted a deal, that is when things changed.”

  • Once the deal is done, there is still work to be done. All of the courts involved in this global settlement of all pending legal issues will need to sign off on the deal. Just procedural. The owners should have a chance to ratify the CBA on Thursday in Atlanta. The union will also have to recertify and the players will have to approve the deal.

  • We'll be interested to see the reaction to the deal on the players side, especially agents.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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