The NFL lockout is approaching crunch time. First there is the court imposed deadline at which point both sides will have to face judge Arthur Boylan. Secondly the league is approaching a point of no return at which time the league will have to seriously consider a delayed start and with that the possibility of missed games.
The good news is that on Thursday evening word began to spread that one of the areas of biggest concern at this time seems to be reaching a resolution. In recent weeks the word coming out of the labor talks was that the rookie wage scale was the biggest remaining roadblock to football resuming without interruption. That appears to be over.
The goal from the owners perspective was to restrict the large salaries that have exploded among rookie draft picks, while the players wanted to ensure that the money saved would be reinvested into veteran player salaries and not simply pocketed by the owners going forward. The two sides have apparently reached some agreement that is beneficial to both sides and with a few details yet to be worked out, it should present a solutions.
Under the system discussed Thursday, people told the AP, clubs will have an option for a fifth year on a rookie's contract for a predetermined amount based on the player's performance during the previous years of the deal.
What that means is owners would no longer be financially strapped by draft disasters like Jamarcus Russel who ultimately cost the Raiders and Al Davis a fortune despite never producing much of anything on the field. At the end of the day some of that has to rest on Al Davis and the owners but the new rookie wage scale aims to limit the risk and in return the players will likely seek a return to previous free agency rules with an opt out opportunity after four years instead of six.
While a deal isn't in place officially, the news breaking late Thursday seems to be a significant sign and point toward the fact that a resolution is in sight.