We might finally be getting somewhere after all.
That seemed to be the prevailing feeling from various sources around the league as the owners wrapped up a meeting in Illinois on Tuesday - a meeting that could have lasted a day longer than it did if that was necessary. However it appears as though there is "no significant dissent" from any of the league's owners regarding the direction that CBA negotiations are taking - meaning the owners did not stick around for a second day of meetings.
So just how quickly can a "new league year" begin? A report from Jason Cole says that the NFL could be back in business by July 15, if not sooner. A source on the owners' side told Cole, "That kind of timeline is altogether possible."
Cole also notes the body language of some of thee owners today as a positive sign. Writes Cole:
Furthermore, the wide grin on New York Giants owner John Mara’s face was a pretty good tell about the state of the talks. In recent months, Mara’s face has been etched with a dour look, such as in March when talks between the owners and the players broke down, and the CBA expired.
That same source on the owners' side even said the terms of a new CBA could be completed by the end of the week.
"At this point, you could probably have the terms drawn up by Friday if you wanted to really hurry the process, but two weeks is probably more realistic," said the source. "Two weeks for the paperwork is pretty reasonable."
What about the key terms of a new CBA? Various sources, including ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, has some info on the proposed agreement. Three of the very interesting - and important - nuggets in this proposed CBA are as follows:
- Unsigned players with at least four years of service will be unrestricted free agents. This is as it was before last offseason, when the league operated under "final league year" rules which made any player with less than six years of service a restricted free agent.
- Players will receive 48% of all revenue. Interestingly enough, no longer will money be taken off the top before the players get their share. Under the previous CBA, the players received 60% of the total revenue after $1 billion was taken off the top - which resulted in an actual take of about 53% for the players.
- Teams will be required to spend 90 to 93 percent of the salary cap. That's a very high salary floor for teams to meet but will ensure that players actually see the money allotted to them under the new deal.
What this all means for the Miami Dolphins as well as every other team is that they will need to be prepared for some fast and furious action once a new deal is reached. If you estimate the possible salary cap for 2011 based on the figures that have been thrown around, a logical guess would put the cap in the $135 to $140 million range in 2011. But with total revenues expected to double between now and 2016 (thanks in large part to a new Thursday night television package being discussed), that cap number could really skyrocket to well over $250 million over the next five years.
As it stands now, one report from ESPN claims that the Dolphins are currently looking at a current cap number of around $103 million. So Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano will have some money to throw around once free agency does finally begin this offseason.
But with teams having to reportedly meet a high salary floor, a number of teams will be looking to spend big in free agency - meaning competition for some of the most sought-after players on the market will be fierce. The good news is that with free agency reverting back to "pre-2010" rules, the pool of unrestricted free agents is much larger than some had feared it would be.
With guys like DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Michael Bush now unrestricted, we may have seen the last of both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in Miami. But D. Williams and Bradshaw - the top running backs on the market - will be heavily sought after. The bidding for DeAngelo in particular, widely regarded by Dolphins fans as the team's top target in free agency, could get out of control in a hurry.
The Broncos are very high on Williams and are now coached by DeAngelo's former head coach in Carolina (John Fox). The Panthers, meanwhile, maintain that they do want to re-sign Williams and might be as much as $70 million under the projected salary cap. With that rumored new salary floor in place, the Panthers will have to use up that money.
Bradshaw, meanwhile, might be the better fit in Miami because of the skill set he possesses. He'd be a much better complement to Daniel Thomas than Williams would be. He's also younger and will probably be less expensive. It's also worth noting that Bradshaw changed agents last month and is now represented by Drew Rosenhaus, who of course is based in South Florida and has a great working relationship with the Dolphins.
Of course, we'll cross these bridges when we come to them. For now, take solace in the fact that both sides finally seemed motivated to get a new CBA completed sooner rather than later. With a little luck, we could be breaking down signings and trades in less than a month.