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NFL Lockout, Labor Talks Progressing; "Cautious Optimism" Reported

As NFL Lockout chugs along past 100 days now, NFL Owners and Players met again for a second straight day on Thursday in an attempt to iron out the details of a new CBA proposal. I detailed some of the leaked stipulations of the new CBA the other day, and though it really depends on who you talk to and which source you're quoting, there appears to be some cautious optimism that this thing will wrap up in about two weeks or so. (Give or take a few months).

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith appeared together for the first time since the lockout began and pledged their commitment to getting an agreement done before teams are forced to miss any games. Per the inimitable Albert Breer:

"Goodell, standing outside Nantasket Beach Resort, where the talks were held, started by saying: "We are under court order, as far as what we can discuss, so our comments will be brief. Obviously, we're all working hard, the players and owners were here over the last few days, and De and I were here for the entire meetings also. And it's complicated, and it's complex, but we're working hard. We understand the fans' frustration, but I think both of us feel strongly that we're going to continue to work hard on it."

Smith followed by saying: "Someone asked me if I was optimistic -- I think we're both optimistic when we have the right people in the room. We know we're talking about the right issues, and we're working hard to get it done. It's extremely complicated. It requires a lot of hard work by a lot of people. But we're committed to getting something done. And we're going to keep working at it.""

So, again, not much in terms of actual 'news,' but the fact that the Owners and Players are still meeting and have plans to meet again next week has to be encouraging. 

As I told you earlier in the week, the main issues outlined in the new CBA proposal include:

-A rookie wage scale.
-The 18-game season will be designated only as a 'negotiable item' with the players and is not mandated.
-A new 16-game Thursday night schedule will start in 2012 as a source for new revenue.
-Significantly increased pension funding and improved health care for retired players.
-A built in mechanism that requires teams to spend close to 100% the salary cap.
-Four-years needed for unrestricted free agency (franchise tag would remain).

The main point would be the revenue sharing of course, and this proposal sets the players' share at 48%, a figure that cannot dip below 46.5%.This is a number that has been massaged and negotiated on over the last few weeks and it's now being reported that items being discussed in more detail in the last few days include the rookie wage scale and retired player benefits. 

The new CBA will likely span 6-10 years and because of the length of this, teams will be able to negotiate very lucrative TV contracts. 

The other main issue that is being addressed is the salary cap floor. As John Clayton put it, "In the now-expired collective bargaining agreement, teams were required to invest about 86 percent of their salary cap in cap dollars. That was called the payroll floor in the old CBA. A few teams created phony incentives that they never planned to pay just to get over the payroll floor and then pocketed the unspent money.

Hoping to get a deal, owners in the past few weeks upgraded a proposal that changed the formula. On March 11, owners were willing to set the floor at 90 percent of the salary cap in cash. Now, they are willing to make the floor close to 100 percent of the salary cap.

Thus, if the salary cap is around $120 million this year, teams would have to put close to that amount of money in cash to meet the minimum payroll requirements."

So what does this mean for the SeahawksWell, here's what Clayton thinks:

"General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll could go on a spending spree. They have $39 million of cap room and a payroll of $83 million. To meet the NFL payroll floor, the Seahawks would have to spend $37 million. They need a veteran left guard, so that leaves plenty of room to go for Raiders left guard Robert Gallery. They offered Matt Hasselbeck $7 million in a one-year deal. They could easily afford to bring him back and then make deals at other positions to upgrade their roster."

Exciting for the Seahawks as they go into 2011, and these numbers are assuming the cap is $120 million. Some people suggest that it could be even higher, closer to $130 million. If so, it appears as though the Hawks' front office would have no choice but to pursue and sign some higher-priced free agents. Whether or not that's what's in the best interest for the Hawks remains to be seen. Long term though, it likely means better parity in the NFL and strengthens the idea that the NFL won't end up with teams skimping on payroll and losing perennially. Theoretically, anyway.

Here's what Chris Mortensen has to say about it: