While it looks like a new CBA is emminant, there are still several key issues that remain before a deal can be finalized and pushed through to be ratified by the owners and the players. If you've been following labor updates (aside from what I put up here), one of the most accurate reporters on the matter has been been Mike "What does Close mean?" Silver of Yahoo! Sports. (The nickname is a joke. If you've follow him during the lockout you'll get it.)
According to Silver, there are seven potholes still on the road to opening the 2011 NFL season.
- Lost benefits: When the owners opted out of the previous CBA, triggering an uncapped year in 2010, it allowed them to avoid paying $320 million in benefits. Now that peace is at hand, the players are pushing to recover that money. Owners will argue that they merely exercised an option available to them under the terms of the deal the two sides previously negotiated.
- Lockout insurance damages: U.S. District Court Judge David Doty ruled that the owners, in an effort to create a potential lockout fund, breached their contract with the players in negotiating below-market contract extensions with several television networks that served their own interests. He has yet to rule on damages
- Judicial oversight: Speaking of Doty, the owners no longer want him (or any other federal judge) in charge of deciding CBA disputes, a role he held for the previous 18 years following the 1993 settlement of player-initiated antitrust suits that ushered in the current era of unrestricted free agency. Expect language in the new CBA to include a stipulation that gives jurisdiction of such matters to an arbitration panel, likely made up of retired judges.
- Workers’ compensation: The owners are trying to end the common practice of players filing claims in California, which has an employee-friendly system, if they’ve played even a single game in the state during their careers. Under the owners’ proposal, players would be required to file in the state in which their team was based when they incurred the injury in question.
- Right of first refusal rules: Players are pushing for a clause that will prohibit teams from applying the franchise tag to a player more than once during that player’s time with the organization.
- Settling the Brady et al antitrust lawsuit: As my colleague Jason Cole reported on Monday, at least two of the lawsuit's 10 named plaintiffs, Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson and Patriots guard Logan Mankins, are pushing for unrestricted free agency or separate $10 million payoffs as part of a settlement.
- Union recertification: As I reported in late May, Smith believes the players' interests are best served by the NFLPA remaining a trade association and thus retaining their ability to assert their legal rights under the Sherman Antitrust Act in future labor clashes. Sources say union recertification has yet to come up in negotiations, but it's likely the owners would strongly resist agreeing to new a CBA without the union reforming.