We know we have 2010 but 2011 is still in question. I'm not going to get into the deadlines or when things are supposed to pick up. What I will discuss are some bargaining chips both sides have and how I think it will all end up. Basically I think big changes are ahead because both sides desire certain things, all of which are reasonable.Lets start with the 18 game season. I consider this a done deal. It means more money for everyone and benefits both sides even if the NFLPA will say they're against if because of risk of injury to players. I'm not buying it because the NFL can easily sweeten the pot to make it work. Off the top of my head I would guess roster expansion as well as some kind of incentive structure for players with existing contracts that will say they only signed for 16 game regular seasons. They've done it before and some day they'll do it again...and again. 18 games is on the way.
Players certainly need to be compensated for the expanded season. The NFL will say they're not playing more because they'll be playing two less preseason games. What could get interesting with this is the NFL making an argument that players are getting paid for preseason games that they aren't taking part it besides dressing and maybe playing a handful of meaningless snaps. I think it gets done in the end but that's an argument I would be making in response to added compensation to the players. Bottom line is we're talking about more money through more ticket sales so they'll work it out.
The big issue for me is blood testing. It's necessary for HGH testing and I want a clean league. I want an even playing field and I want the turds kicked to the curb. The NFLPA is being cautious in responding to new advancements to the testing process and really they have no argument. They can't push the envelope on this one because the NFL can easily make it backfire on them in the media by saying they support cheating. I think this gets done and for no other reason besides this being America's new past time and it being the right thing to do.
The rookie wages have blown up in the agent's faces. The constant jumps in pay every year have left an extremely unrealistic rookie pay scale. It's unbalanced and JaMarcus Russell is the straw that broke the camel's back. A rookie wage scale is going to get implemented. I still think the rookies will be in good shape because I think a lot of the money will get spread among the other rookies.
This is where the NFLPA can cash in their chips by going along with 18 game seasons and blood testing. If I were them I would demand that no money be taken from the rookie salary pool but only structured differently. Also they should demand that automatic clauses be put in those contracts that avoid situations like the one we're witnessing with Chris Johnson. Make sure that production is immediately rewarded regardless of the length of the rookie contract, size monetarily or years remaining.
Another demand I would make by going along with the 18 game season and blood testing is permanently removing the franchise tag from the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It's reasonable and the NFL can easily do damage control with their own teams by rewarding higher compensatory picks to teams that lose great players. The loss of a Karlos Dansby for example could be rewarded with a 1st round compensatory pick so that the new team wasn't losing a pick either. Compensatory picks could now be based on previous history instead of waiting a year to compensate the previous team. Maybe they could give the previous team an option to base it on past history or the following year in the case that it's a player they developed like a backup QB.
Right there in my eyes that's two things that each side has gotten. I think an 18 game season and blood testing is equal to increased contracts, money and contract security through performance escalators as well as the removal of the franchise tag. Maybe they could even push for the removal of Restricted Free Agency and get the years shortened on rookie contracts basically benefiting the players by getting them to Unrestricted Free Agency sooner. Not bringing back the Salary Cap would be another thing I would push for from the union's perspective.
There's lots of other things both sides can demand or bring to the table. This league is a money tree and neither side is going to want to harm it. A lockout will certainly harm it and if either side doesn't play ball then things could drastically change. The league has momentum and the union has leverage. There's no reason both sides can't get what they want. It benefits everyone and unless one side wants to come off looking greedy then everything will work itself out and IMO we'll be left with a much more superior product.