The saber-rattling between the NFLPA and NFL has already started, even though the current labor deal runs until 2020.
Some players have already starting tweeting about their salaries not matching NBA salaries.
And NFLPA head De Smith told The MMQB that a lockout or strike is a virtual certainty in 2021.
The rhetoric, though, doesn’t match the reality.
I doubt there will be a lockout or strike.
The NFL owners won’t lock out the players because they like the current deal. They locked out the players in 2011 to get givebacks — and they got them. They will be happy to continue the current deal.
The players, by contrast, want a better deal. They want a bigger piece of the pie and want to rein in commissioner Roger Goodell’s power.
But what are they going to do about it?
It would be foolhardy for the players to strike because the NFL would put on replacement games and enough players would likely cross the picket line to kill the strike.
The players’ 1987 strike ended after three games because too many players crossed the picket line – although the owners kept them out for a fourth game because they didn’t meet an artificial deadline. The players then started a long legal fight that led to them getting free agency. And they got back pay for that fourth game.
Although Richard Sherman has tweeted the players have to be ready to miss paychecks, the players play just 16 regular-season games. And each missed paycheck is a big chunk of their salary.
But the players do have options.
To start with, all the players without workout bonuses could skip the offseason program except for the mandatory three-day minicamp without losing any money because they are all voluntary.
The only downside is that some fringe players could lose their jobs if the teams had an offseason program with young unsigned players.
Still, if all the starters stayed out, it would drive the coaches batty. The coaches could then pressure the owners to make a deal even though the offseason program is overrated (the NFL did just fine in the 1970s without an offseason program).
They could start skipping the voluntary offseason program next year to show they’re serious about getting a better deal.
Then they could refuse to extend the regular season, which they are already doing. Goodell now seems interested in cutting the preseason to three games, but the players could block any attempt to play a 17th regular season game.
The players could also file with the National Labor Relations Board to accuse the owners of not negotiating in good faith, among other things.
With the two sides so far apart, what could happen is that the games will go on without a new CBA, and it could take a long time for the two sides to reach a deal. They played without a new deal after the 1987 strike collapsed.
There is likely to be a lot of lot of labor strife because the players don’t trust the owners.
It didn’t help that NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart publicly accused the NFLPA of leaking negative information about the woman, Tiffany Thompson, who accused Ezekiel Elliott of domestic violence. Lockhart presented no evidence, and the NFLPA responded the NFL was stooping to a new low.
Whenever the negotiations start, they are likely to be acrimonious. If not bitter.
But don’t look for a lockout or a strike.