NFL Lockout: The Lockout Is 'Almost Over,' Both Sides Agree On Rookie Wage Scale, Salary Cap

If you were a NFL labor negotiations news junkie (and if you are, I'm sorry for you), then the last twelve hours have been about as exciting for you as an actual football game is to the rest of us. Owners and players met well into the evening yesterday, with Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, Jeff Saturday, and several others staying until Midnight to finalized several issues pertaining to the new collective bargaining agreement. The good news is significant headway has been made on several of these key issues, and the general sense from those following the story is that we will get a 'handshake agreement' today on the new CBA.

Details regarding key elements, like the rookie wage 'scale,' benefits for retired players, the 2011 salary cap, and more trickled out of the negotiating room and onto Twitter last night. Below, I'll do my best to recap what everyone is talking about in regards to these developments, and how they will affect the Indianapolis Colts:

  • According to multiple sources, the major stumbling block between the owners and players leading up to last night's negotiations marathon (the rookie wage scale) is now settled. This settlement on this particular issue is considered a major development. According to Chris Mortensen, the agreement is not so much a rookie wage 'scale,' but actually a hard cash cap on how much teams can spend on rookies. This is significant because a team like the Colts spends a lot on rookies, especially undrafted ones.
  • John Clayton reported last night that the salary cap for 2011 will be $120 million. This is alarming because, at the end of the 2010 season, the Colts were up against the cap at $115 million, and that is before the team offered Peyton Manning what is sure to be a record contract. The cap in 2009 was $129 mill. 2010 was an uncapped year.
  • Teams will have over $20 million more per team allotted for ancillary benefits. According to Doug Farrar, writing for Yahoo! sports, that means the 'every NFL team will have to spend at least $108 million in pure player costs [not deferred payments and filmy rarely-to-be-earned incentives] this season.'

More significant updates after the jump...

  • Both sides agreed to overhaul arbitration system. This means a federal judge, like David Doty, will no longer settle disputes between the owners and players. According to Mortensen, this new system would involve a panel of ex-judges, and the panel would review commissioner discipline. Details still being negotiated, but that right there is a MAJOR change in how the NFL self-governs itself.
  • Back to rookie cap, Albert Breer reported last night that the owners caved on wanting five year contracts for rookies. The players gave on renegotiation rules.
  • Why did the owners cave on the five-year issue? Mike Freeman says, according to sources, the players 'made a threat' on Wednesday that scared the crap out of them. As a result, the next day both sides agreed on a rookie system. Freeman doesn't know what the threat was, but, like him, we'd REALLY love to know!
  • According to Sal Poalantonio on SportsCenter last night, the 'threat' was the players saying they would go back to court, Judge Nelson's court in Minnesota, and try and get the lockout lifted for rookies and unsigned players (like Peyton Manning). If they had done this (and they still might), the 2011 season would likely be finished.
  • Back to the 2011 cap, and John Clayton again: 'Because a 2011 salary cap of $120 million could cause problems for teams such as Dallas, Pittsburgh and others that currently spend more than that, one of the provisions being discussed is a one-player cap exemption for each team, according to a source. That exemption would be a $3 million credit in 2011 that would count against benefits paid out, a source said. That exemption, which could drop to $1.5 million next year, could save the jobs of players.'
  • NFL.com's Jason La Canfora is reporting that there will be no limit on "cash over cap" spending.He also says that, with exemptions, the cap will 'feel' like $130 million.
  • Sources saying teams will get a three day grace period to re-sign their own free agents before the BIG free agent spree begins.
  • Revenue split will be in the neighborhood of 47-48%.

Obviously, this is a lot to take in and digest. The alarming details are the ones regarding the cap. If it is indeed $120 mill, then the Colts will have to make significant cuts in their roster to re-sign someone like Peyton Manning. Even when they do that, it doesn't seem to leave much left over for rookies, to say nothing of Indy actually using veteran free agency to improve the team. The positive is they are not currently over the $120 mill threshold, like Pittsburgh and Dallas are.

So, there you are. Several issues still remain on the table, but it seems all the truly major stumbling blocks have been resolved.

Chris Mortensen says an agreement-in-principle is possible within 48 hours.

Mike Freeman's sources say: 'We're at the half-yard line. The ball was just snapped. Now we gotta punch it in.'

Adam Schefter says football is 'close enough to smell.'

Here's to hoping we reach the finish line on this thing, folks. Oh, and if it does get resolved today, Don Banks has a certain special someone in mind that deserves a bit of credit:

If July 15 is the day an agreement in principle is reached, then Colts J. Irsay was on the money with his projection of deadline for a deal.

Is it time to get the cocktail napkins ready?

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