Goodell will find out soon if there's opposition to potential labor deal
Tuesday's meeting in Chicago will give every owner the chance to have his say
Which team makes the most sense for Tiki Barber's shot at redemption
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Feels like the calm before the storm a bit, doesn't it? With the 32 NFL owners meeting Tuesday in Chicago, we should know soon how close a labor deal really is, and whether Roger Goodell and the owners' negotiating team will have any real problems selling a new labor agreement to the owners.
That's the big news right now. But there are other things in my final column before summer break. I take a shot on which playoff team would be a good fit for Tiki Barber's comeback. I write about Los Angeles being on the verge of being in the Super Bowl rotation, the leaders in the clubhouse for Nnamdi Asomugha, an NFL teacher of the year totally out of left field (fitting, because he teaches at Ted Williams' old high school), thuggery in Vancouver, the death of Bruce Springsteen's alter ego, emailing with Nick Charles, a soundly underrated Buffalo Bill, and Rex Ryan's baseball knowledge. So settle in. And by the way, I hope those this applies to had a swell Father's Day.
Now the league finds out if it'll have any problem selling the labor deal.
The meeting in Chicago is not going to be particularly momentous. What it will do, as Yahoo!'s Jason Cole suggested Sunday in his excellent analysis of the labor scene, is flush out the real feelings of the owners. It will take nine owners' no votes to scuttle any preliminary labor deal, so after the negotiating team explains where the league stands with the players and where they might end up on the key issues, then the league's going to find out if it'll have any real opposition to a prospective deal.
Just to clarify: Tuesday's meeting (a two-per-club affair, with an owner and executive from each of the 32 teams) will not feature an agreement to be voted on, but rather a good idea of where the major points may end up when and if the league and the players reach an agreement in the coming weeks. This will give all 32 teams the chance to give their thoughts on a variety of issues, from the shortening of the offseason programs by five weeks to exactly where the cap will end up.
While many in the negotiating process felt neither side would do much until the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals either ordered the opening of the league year or allowed the league to continue the lockout, the two sides know each has some risk here. That's why they went ahead and made some progress on the framework of a new CBA. That's not to say it's going to get done, period. But the longer the talks go -- the two sides have met for six days this month, there's a good vibe around the talks, and they're expected to continue later this week after the owners meet -- the better shot at a deal.
It's probably an overstatement to suggest this is the most important meeting of Goodell's nearly five-year tenure. But in my Goodell profile from last winter for SI, Carolina owner Jerry Richardson told me, "If Roger's in office for 25 years, this will be the toughest challenge he'll ever face. However it turns out, it's a resolution he'll have to live with for the rest of his career.'' So when he and the labor committee face the 32 teams, there's no question Goodell's sales job will be vital
I doubt many owners will be shocked by anything they hear Tuesday. Some won't like how far the league is planning to go in giving players a percentage of the profits. But Goodell will tell them it has to happen for there to be a deal. I think whatever the nuts and bolts of this CBA become, he has been working with these owners on the tenets of this deal for three years, and he may have some opposition ... but I can't see nine teams' worth of it. For nine owners to rise up and say, Whoa, I'm not buying into this, is unlikely.
"I think the reports of teams unhappy with how far Roger's gone in these negotiations are overblown,'' said one club official who will be in the room Tuesday. "No question, some people won't like many things in it. The small-market teams, in particular. But will there be nine teams up in arms enough to wreck it? I'd be really surprised.''
The small-market teams could well be upset because -- from what I'm hearing -- not much will be done in the final deal to address the concerns of the bottom-revenue teams that have been trying to narrow the gap with the haves. This is a problem, frankly, I don't see getting fixed. Too many of the high-revenue teams think it's fine to share network TV and ticket money, but chafe at expanding revenue-sharing in a more global sense. It's a well-worn saw around the league that if Mike Brown wants his Bengals to be closer to the high-revenue teams, he should sell the naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium instead of keeping his dad's name on it. One league veteran told the revenue difference between rich and relative poor in the NFL "might be addressed, but is simply not going to get fixed in this deal.''
You can expect the NFL filters to be on high this week. I'd be worried about the deal only if I hear a couple of richy-rich teams (Washington and Dallas, say) and a couple of low-revenue teams (Minnesota and St. Louis) threatening to withhold support of the deal. That would mean teams across the spectrum don't like the deal. And I don't expect that to happen. But we'll see.
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