We're now just days away from the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL owners and players. The two sides spent seven consecutive days negotiating ending last week and breaking for the NFL Combine this week. They will continue on March 1st.
The final day of the labor deal is March 3rd which means we could wake up on March 4th without a deal between the two sides and, technically, be in the beginning stages of a work stoppage (though no games will be played for over five months).
Most have felt pessimistic a deal will get done. One of the lone voices of optimism has been National Football Post's Andrew Brandt. I remember taking note of what he said on February 11th:
I may be alone here, but I am still optimistic a deal can be done here: three weeks is an eternity in the negotiating process. I still choose not to believe the gloom and doom, despite how much pessimism there may be.
That stood out to me because it was one of the few votes of optimism remaining. Now, more than two weeks later, Brandt isn't as optimistic there's a deal by March 3rd.
I have been that voice in the wilderness holding out optimism for that to happen, mainly because I feel that after Friday there will be little incentive to negotiate for a while. My hope is that the deadline will cause each side to show more or all of their cards. Having done player contracts for twenty years, from both sides of the table, I know that neither side puts its best offer on the table until it absolutely has to. The question for which I do not know the answer is whether Friday is that true deadline or not.
Check out Brandt's entire CBA primer because it's worth a read but the feeling I got after reading it is that there is very little hope a deal gets done by March 3rd. A lockout, or a work stoppage, isn't about "if" anymore -- it's about how long.