The NFL is perched at the edge of the void; both the league and players association are posturing and snorting and raking their cloven hooves on the ground in a testosterone-fueled display of ill-advised risk taking.
Both the players and the league need to be very careful about letting the CBA expire without a new deal. Players negotiating on their own will never end up with 60 percent of gross league revenue in total team salaries they're currently getting from the owners. And the league will never make up the revenues lost to a work stoppage.
The real issue is will the fans ever forgive either party for a strike/lockout?
Some folks to this day have not forgiven Major League Baseball for a cancelled World Series—lost to the greed of 800-900 guys who couldn't figure out how to share a pie worth billions. I still don't watch MLB or go to the games anymore.
The NFLPA is going to demand greater access to the individual accounting records of all teams on an individual basis as well as the league at large. While the league is looking to roll back some of the concessions made in the last round of negotiations.
On one hand, the accounting demand seems reasonable. Except the NFLPA is not giving up any kind of equal concession in return for the access to those records.
Also, there's a legitimate question as to whether or not the players are entitled to access to any records beyond those of the league at large. After all, they are not negotiating an agreement with each team. They are negotiating with the league as a whole.
On the other hand, the individual teams are all closed cultures with regard to their finances, and while they are required to release some information to the league about their ticket sales and local broadcast and advertising revenues, it's hard to see how those numbers are not being manipulated by the teams because there is no GAAP requirement (Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures) being placed on the teams by the NFL.
One solution to these issues would be for the NFL to establish GAAP rules with regard to revenues/costs the teams are required to report to the league so the numbers will provide third parties an 'apples to apples' statement of accounts.
In return for access to those limited team financial statements, the league needs to require the players union to fully fund medical programs and retirement pay to the older retired players who helped build the league into the juggernaut it is today.
Current players are not going to like this, but it doesn't matter whether they like it or not. The NFLPA owes a debt to those older retirees who gave their health and the best years of their lives to the NFL, and in the process paved the way for the kind of money players are making today. It's just a matter of doing the right thing.
So do it.
In the meantime, the looming uncapped year has both players and teams scrambling to create situations whereby they can whether the coming storm with some semblance of stability while they wait for things to shake out and give themselves some time to learn how to function in the pending new world order.
With the June 1st exception going by the wayside because there's no CBA in place for next year, teams now have to absorb the whole cap hit in one year when they release a player.
As older players—even superstars (in the current salary situation) generally have smaller cap hits if they're cut, it's easier for teams to let go of guys they might have otherwise retained. Particularly if they're scrambling for cash under the cap.
Those same vets are finding there isn't as much money out there for them now as they would have made in prior years, so guys like Fred Taylor are forgoing the big money to play for winners if they can get an offer like Taylor did from NE. And others, like Marvin Harrison are being cautious and moving slower than they might have.
The uncertainty of what will happen in an uncapped league has most teams doing all they can to sign their younger and proven talent to long term deals and extensions before the CBA goes south.
This stockpiling of players with long term deals gives them the benefit of roster stability for several years after the cap goes away while they learn how to function in a new un-capped league.
It's going to be interesting to watch, but it might also be painful if either party is so insulated in thier own narrow-minded concerns they lose track of the biggest issue:
Will the fans forgive either party for a work stoppage that includes regular season or playoff games. Or the cancelling of a Super Bowl.
The answer? Not a snowball's chance in hell.