(UPDATED: 10:15 p.m.)
Welcome to the double-secret location (Airport Gateway Marriott, 2020 Convention Center Concourse, Atlanta, Ga., 30337, where the codeword “media” gets you free wifi) for these high-level NFL meetings.
I’m hunkered down in the work room, where there is coffee and muffins. If you stop by and say hello, I’ll try to sneak you one.
Here’s the important update: Darryl Ledbetter and I just spoke with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said he expects these months of absurdity to end today — my words, not his — and a deal to get finalized.
When I asked Blank, just before he walked into the 10 a.m. owners meeting, if he expected a deal for a CBA to be completed, he said, “Yes, I think so. I’d be disappointed, like 330 million people in America, if we didn’t get it done today. There’s been wonderful communication between the labor committee, eight owners, the commissioner, the league staff, counsel and everybody in that room, so there won’t be any surprises from a league perspective. And hopefully the players have gotten through their issues last night and we’ll be in position to do their ratification this morning or today. I don’t know what the timing of that is. I do know the same things you all have read, and that’s what our general counsel has said: The owners can ratify the deal first if necessary and have the players approve it. It’s not what we expected, but if that’s the process, that’s the process.”
Free at last, from this silliness. Almost.
For the past couple of weeks, there has been an expectation that the league’s owners and players finally would figure out how to divide $9.3 billion, a problem we certainly can all relate to, at this Atlanta meeting.
This probably should’ve happened months ago, before the NFL damaged the draft, postponed free agency and threatened the season. But then, that just wouldn’t be good business.
I’ll make this as brief as possible, at this risk of you X’ing out the page. The players passed on anticipated vote on a new CBA in Washington on Wednesday. But the two sides were expected to work through the evening in hopes of being able to ratify a 10-year deal today.
Here’s what I expect: Even if every bullet point isn’t finalized today, a deal will be reached in principle, allowing teams to prepare for roster moves and free agency. Then we can put these several months of absurdity behind us.
The owners are in their meeting now and it figures to go until at least early afternoon. D-Led and I will have more updates later.
By Jeff Schultz