Opt-out becomes an issue in NFL talks

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Bob Glauber
Monday, July 25, 2011
— As the NFL Players Association’s executive committee prepared for a meeting today to go over terms of a new collective bargaining agreement, cautious optimism remained that a deal can be hammered out to end a lockout that has lasted more than four months.

But there was no final agreement Sunday night, and a last-minute bid by the players’ side to amend terms of the proposed 10-year agreement has led to an unexpected holdup. Two people familiar with the negotiations said the players remain insistent that there be an opt-out clause after seven years.

Such a provision would allow either side to vacate the agreement within a certain time period. In the previous CBA, owners opted out after the 2008 season, making 2010 its final year.

“If this is truly the last item, then (the negotiations are) solved,” said a person who has been briefed on the talks. “But there have been a few of those.”

Another person familiar with the talks said lawyers and executives from both sides continued to work on contract language, and that it was taking longer than expected.

The National Football Post reported Sunday night that Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a named plaintiff in antitrust litigation against the NFL, had sent an email to teammates that the sides had agreed on a deal. If so, it must be approved by the executive committee today at its headquarters.

There was optimism late Saturday that a deal was imminent after most remaining items were resolved, including the decision by Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson not to seek any compensation from the Tom Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit. Jackson, also a named plaintiff, had wanted a $10-million settlement, or the guarantee that the Chargers couldn’t use the franchise tag on him and thereby restrict his ability to sign with another club.

Another complicating factor is the timing of the players’ move to recertify as a union. The league has urged them to vote electronically and speed the process, but the players prefer to sign union cards. Teams would make them available at training facilities. Players signed cards during the last year authorizing the union to decertify if its leaders chose to do so, and lawyers for the players’ side wanted a similar setup for recertification.

Even if a deal is agreed upon today, recertification could delay a return to regular operations.

Although plans have not been completed, the league wants to have players begin to return to their teams by the end of the week, with the free-agency signing period starting then, too.

The league hopes to be operating by Aug. 13-14, the first full weekend of preseason games. Teams usually need two weeks of practice before their preseason openers.

There is general agreement on almost all the major aspects of the deal, which will allow players to collect approximately 48 percent of all revenues for the duration of the contract. They will be able to become unrestricted free agents after four years, compared with the six-year minimum last year, in which there was no salary cap.

Now the question is whether the league and the players will settle. Executives on both sides agree they are very close to an agreement, but closing the deal remains to be seen.

“I think there will be some good news coming out tomorrow,” Vikings player representative Steve Hutchinson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sunday.

Millions of NFL fans are hoping he’s right.

Last updated: 5:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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