Friday Night NFL Labor Highlights: A New Deal is Imminent!!

Hold on to your morning coffee, tea, vitamin water, or whatever you drink with your weekend rise-and-shine.  

A perusal of the main NFL labor news sites Friday night yielded a number of late-breaking updates representing different angles and perspectives on the imminency of Labor Peace.

Make the jump to see what I'm talking about...

The first one I ran into was the espn.com labor update, that hit the internets at approximately 10:20 pm EST, and includes a John Clayon video.

One of their headlines - Talks recessed after owners give in on free agency - focused on the item of the talks closing on Friday as the owners dropped their demand for a "right of first refusal" clause on some free agents:

Owners had asked that they have the right to designate three free agents whose contract offers from other teams they would have the right to match. Instead, players got what they wanted -- four years of free agency with no restrictions.

As each side reached resolutions on other issues, owners dropped the demand, sources said. The breakthrough moves both sides to coming to resolution of a new collective bargaining agreement.

This article also includes notes on the salary cap situation, and a "hold your horses" reminder that nothing has been settled, progress is being made, and that there will be an official debriefing at the league meeting in Atlanta Thursday:

Also Friday, the NFL sent all 32 teams a memo saying it was working on an agreement and would hold a debriefing on it Thursday in Atlanta at the league meeting, team sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The sources said no league business such as contracts, negotiations or practices with players, were expected to happen before that meeting. In the memo, the league also reminded teams that lockout rules from March 11 remain in place.

I then went over to ye olde nfl.com to see what their coverage had to say about this whole deal, and found Albert Breer's 9:56 pm update of his original Friday mid-day piece.

Owners, players make progress, aim to seal deal next week is how the headline reads, and if you go to that story, you'll get the chance to see the video of Scott Hanson interviewing Albert Breer on Total Access.

Based on the lead, "the end is nigh!"

Various sources on both sides said Friday that owners and players are expected to reach an agreement in principle early next week, ending the longest work stoppage in league history without losing a game. All the major hurdles have been cleared, and the lawyers and staff for both parties will meet over the weekend to review the details and language of the potential deal.

"The discussions this week have been constructive and progress has been made on a wide range of issues," the owners and players said in a joint statement issued after Friday's meeting.

Here's a bit more from "sources" on what that means:

Several issues -- such as The Legacy Fund (retiree benefits) and drug testing -- will require the NFL Players Association to re-certify as a union or obtain a waiver to finalize, but they aren't considered stumbling blocks in a deal. Likewise, the lion's share of player safety issues and related items such as offseason programs were answered Friday.

The owners also dropped their proposal to have one-time, right-of-first-refusal tags on free agents. Owners initially dropped their proposal from three tags to two before losing it altogether.

So, the bulk of what remains before a full agreement can be reached is settling the Brady antitrust litigation and the television rights fees case. That's considered procedural because of where the parties stand now.

The article also covers the rookie contract concessions, offseason workout bonuses, and who was there from both camps.

The author draws the conclusion that it's all over but the crying:

Now the parties are aiming to have a completed deal to present to their constituencies next week. The owners have had that objective for more than a week, wanting to conduct a ratification vote at their July 21 meetings in Atlanta.

It now appears that will happen following two furious days of negotiating that followed a very difficult session of talks Wednesday. It's now possible that the full preseason schedule could be saved, thanks to a rush at the finish line to beat internal deadlines that were focused on July 15. The preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams is scheduled for Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio.

And it closes with characterizing the current status as "on the brink of re-opening the gates to the league."

This wasn't enough for me last night. I just had to click on over to profootballtalk.com to find out Florio and Friends's take on Friday's and the week's developments.

In a No Deal Friday piece posted at 4:56 pm EST, Gregg Rosenthal links to the NFLPA/NFL Joint Statement, and Breer's nfl.com piece that I covered above.  He used language such as this throughout the post: "inching ever closer to a deal," which makes some sense to me, and then closes with, "There is no cold water in sight", which makes absolutely no sense to me - does he need some cold water after drinking my milkshake or something?

Michael David Smith's quickie at 7:10 pm EST went by this moniker: Almost nothing can derail a deal now.

At 10:51 pm EST, Florio linked to a Chicago Sun-Times report about the HOF game being cancelled.

Florio's "hold your horses" moment came at 11:14 pm EST, as he posted a little ditty titled There's still a minor reason to be mildly concerned. More waffling and weaseling. This real-time update crap is for the birds. Just wake me when it's over.

That's it for your Friday Night (NFL Labor High) Lights Update. If something breaks overnight or during the day Saturday after this posts, please drop the info into the comment thread below, and I'll be back later this afternoon with your Fleur-de-Links (following a few hours at the office and a "makin' groceries" run with the wife).

Have a great Saturday, everyone!

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