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Report: NFL has given NFLPA a “rough deadline” of March 18 to accept pending proposal

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Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss the reported upcoming vote on an NFL CBA that would include a 17-game regular season.

The NFL and NFL Players Association have negotiated an acceptable labor deal. The NFLPA now must officially accept it, or reject it. And the clock is ticking.

According to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, the league has given the union a “rough deadline” of March 18 for accepting the current proposal, premised on a 17-game regular season. If the offer isn’t accepted, talks will be tabled indefinitely.

The message is clear: The league is taking the position that the deal isn’t getting any better, so don’t come back and ask for more. Take it or leave it. And if you leave it, a lockout may happen in 2021. The lockout likely will last until the players accept a 17-game arrangement while on the brink of missing game checks.

So if the players will eventually take the best offer on the table before losing any real money, why not take the best offer that’s on the table now? That’s the question that the NFLPA needs to address when the Executive Committee and the board of player representatives meet today in, per multiple reports, Los Angeles.

It’s a simple flow chart. If the players do not want 17 games and are willing to endure a lockout that extends into the 2021 regular season, reject the offer. If the players eventually will take a 17-game deal before missing games, take the deal now so that the league can execute new TV deals before the presidential election takes a chunk out of the 2020 ratings and a potential recession puts a crimp in budgets.

UPDATE 5:00 p.m. ET: NFLPA spokesman George Atallah and Steelers rep Ramon Foster have disputed Graziano’s report of a March 18 “rough deadline.”

UPDATE 7:10 p.m. ET: Prior versions of this item indicated that the report came from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who had tweeted a link to the ESPN.com story. The byline on the story belongs to Dan Graziano, who has since revised the story to remove the term “rough outline” and to say that “both sides would prefer to have a deal in place soon so that changes in the CBA structure could go into effect at the start of the new league year on March 18.” (The original language currently can still be seen by Googling “rough deadline ESPN.”)