Talks between the NFL and the NFLPA aimed at reaching a new collective bargaining agreement are set to intensify in July in an effort to secure a new deal before the start of the 2019 regular season, sources close to the negotiations told ESPN.
The two sides have scheduled negotiating sessions for July 17-19, a source tells ESPN's Josina Anderson. It will be the first time both sides engage in talks for three consecutive days, specifically on this pending league deal, and the biggest and potentially most contentious issues are expected to be addressed, the source said.
The current CBA expires after the 2020 season, sources say there have already been three direct owner/player negotiation sessions so far -- one per month in April, May and June -- plus regular conversations between staffers for both sides in between those sessions.
The situation is far different than it was at the tail end of the previous CBA. In May 2008, owners voted to opt out of that agreement following the 2010 season -- a move that signaled their intention to lock out the players in order to secure more favorable terms in the next agreement. Lock them out they did, in 2011, though the two sides were able to reach an agreement in time to hold abbreviated training camps and a full 2011 season.
Though sources cautioned that it's too soon to know whether a new agreement can be reached by the time this one expires -- let alone by the start of this coming season -- both sides seem optimistic that they can come to an agreement without a work stoppage this time. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith recently sent a letter to player agents asking them to advise their players to save money in the event of a work stoppage, but a union source characterized that letter as part of the normal course of business -- "negotiate for the best, prepare for the worst."
The owners' side appears motivated to get a deal done by the start of the 2019 season for several reasons, including their planned "NFL 100" marketing campaign and the impending end of their deals with TV rights holders. If no new CBA deal is reached by March 2020, next offseason will include new contract and salary-cap rules specific to the final year of the CBA, including the lack of June 1 release designations and the ability of teams to use both the franchise and transition tags to keep players off the free-agent market.