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NFL Lockout: Negotiations for Free Agents, and More Progress on Talks

Here is the latest on the lockout front from this past week, including the importance of losing preseason games, how talks are going, and a potential free agent scenario:

Lost Preseason Games Would be Costly:

The "first lockout deadline" before we start losing preseason games still seems to be July 15th. Pro Football Talk has an article up on how lost preseason games would hurt the players financially too. Could that be the type of incentive that forces the owners and the players to reach a final compromise just in time?

The LA Times talked about the importance of preseason games as well:

The first regular-season game is more than two months away. Why the urgency now?

It would be a big hassle to compress training camps, but the real pain would come in canceling exhibition games, which, from the owners' perspective, is the easiest money in sports. In the scam of all scams, they charge full price for meaningless games in which they sit the stars, play the scrubs, and pay peanuts to everyone on the roster. Wiping out a week of preseason games would be incredibly costly and would mean less money in the system, hence increasing the difficulty of striking a deal.

A Positive Sign After a Brief Stutter?

Talks were taking place all weekend, including Saturday, when the NFL's public relations man, Greg Aiello, tweeted the following:

Lawyers are drafting language for potential agreement, sharing it with PA. All kinds of phone, email exchanges going on. Work continues.

This doesn't mean that either side is going to give in to the point where they feel like they have lost the negotiations, so it would not surprise me to hear more supposed "breakdowns" in negotiations. For example, after word of last week's positive talks, a report from Yahoo Sports a couple of days ago made mention of bizarre breakdowns all of a sudden, with a lot of finger pointing going on. Some examples:

The players blame the owners for suddenly insisting upon "expense credits" that would reduce the all-revenue total by a significant margin (described by one source as "several hundred million dollars"), effectively reducing their share to 45 percent.

The players also balked at the owners’ insistence that the proposed "legacy fund" to aid retired players would come out of the salary cap – essentially meaning that the players, and not the league, would be responsible for those costs. Owners also clung to the possibility of adding two games to the regular season as early as 2014, a move to which most players are adamantly opposed.

Owners, meanwhile, claim that certain expense credits were part of the "all revenue" understanding achieved earlier this month and charge that the players are the ones attempting to change the terms. They are also frustrated by players’ insistence that "all revenue" should include a share of money generated by non-football events (such as rock concerts) at team-owned stadiums.

Now, are these the type of things that are going to put things on an indefinite hold? I don't think so; I look at as negotiations continuing until the very last possible second. Remember, Aiello's tweet was published after the supposed "breakdowns" above.

Exclusive Free Agent Window for Teams

ESPN talked about a potential scenario if the lockout were to end on time. In short, here is what would happen: there would be about a three-day window after the lockout where teams would have exclusive free agent negotiations with their free agent players. This would allow them to keep some restricted free agents that they lost the tenders on, and it would allow them to re-consider signing players if they didn't fulfill a need during the draft.

I think this would be a fair scenario, all things considered. It probably wouldn't benefit the Browns much, although fans would know right away if the team had a legitimate interest in bringing Lawrence Vickers back for another season. The reason the three-day window is not a detriment to players? If they have no interest in re-signing with their former team, they just wait three days and hit the market. The other scenario would just see everyone become free agents right after the lockout ends.