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How close is “close”? Making sense of where things stand


Plenty of reports suggest that, once the NFL and the players hammer out the terms of a new rookie wage scale, which as Ross Tucker astutely observes via Twitter already is a win for the owners based on the current players’ proposal, the CBA will be, for all intents and purposes, a done deal. But then there are those scattered quotes and reports suggesting that things aren’t quite as simple as bridging a fairly narrow gap between the league’s plan and the players’ proposal for paying first-rounders in year five.

“All that is hype coming from the owners side to try and put pressure on us to do a deal,” an unnamed player told Pete Prisco of, as Rosenthal pointed out Monday. “They want to make us look bad. It’s simply not true. There is a lot of work to be done. They are not close. Consider where that information is coming from, it’s the owners. Their reason is to try and create all this false hope to put more pressure on us.”

The unnamed player added that he’ll be “shocked” if a deal is completed within the next 10 days.

So where do things really stand? Are the owners leaking selectively information to the media in order to create a false tidal wave of inevitability that will sweep the NFLPA* toward a new CBA? Or is the NFLPA* privately painting the gaps as significant in order to avoid a genuine tidal wave of inevitability long enough to negotiate favorable terms on the final points?

We’ve been beating the bushes to get more information, and for now it appears that, indeed, it’s all coming down to the rookie wage scale. And each passing day is making it less likely that big money will be spent on free agents.

Sure, the teams will have to spend money in 2011, as the salary floor moves higher than ever under the new CBA. But to the extent that a compressed time frame prevents a curve-blowing feeding frenzy, teams will be able to spend more carefully and deliberately, holding back some money for the purposes of extending the contracts of young players during the regular season.

But if the league’s goal is to have a long-term win-win deal, there’s every reason to compromise on the issue of compensation for first-round picks in year five of their first contracts. The solution already sweeps more broadly than the problem. It’s time to find a way to close this thing, before the excruciatingly slow process of resolving the lockout does real damage to the shield by impacting the quality of play early in the 2011 campaign.