Negotiations between NFL owners and players are set to start again next week, and this particular set of talks could be the breaking point or the time when breakthroughs are made and a deal is finally agreed to. While things didn't go quite as well as originally hoped a few days ago, there is some good news going into next week's talks.
Several people with knowledge of the talks tell the Associated Press that such key issues as splitting total revenues -- the major reason for the dispute -- the salary cap, fewer offseason workouts and the length of a new collective bargaining agreement are close to being completed.
The bad news is the issues of rookie salaries and guidelines for free agency have not yet been settled. In fact, they appear to be the two main issues that haven't been resolved just yet. Here's why:
The NFLPA insists that money diverted from the rookies go to veteran players; some also would go for retired players' benefits. The main disagreement right now is how deep into the first round the rookie wage scale would apply, perhaps eight picks, perhaps twice that many. Some owners also are seeking longer contracts for rookies.
In addition, the owners are pushing for more restrictions in free agency, which the players "vehemently oppose," one of the people familiar with the negotiations said.
"Maybe for one year there might be an extended right of first refusal as a compromise," the person said.
While a lot of money and a lot of players' futures are at stake based on the eventual outcome of these issues, at some point the two sides will just have to reach a compromise and move forward. Neither side is going to get exactly what they want, but if they want to get a deal done they are going to have to get over it and agree to something on these remaining issues.