Finally, the first positive signs from the CBA discussions

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell address the media during a press conference in Dallas, Texas on February 4, 2011, one of the events leading up to Super Bowl XLV. The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Green Bay Packers on February 6, 2011. UPI/Ian Halperin

After months of failed bargaining negotiations, the owners and union are bringing in the big guns to help resolve the CBA deal.

George H. Cohen, also known as the lockout whisperer, has been called upon by both sides to help mediate the discussions. Mediation is not binding, so whether Cohen can help remains to be seen but at least this is a step in a positive direction (the first we’ve heard when it comes to these discussions).

Last year, Cohen was involved in Major League Soccer talks with its players’ union and a work stoppage was avoided. He’s also worked with the players’ associations for MLB, helping end the 1994-95 strike as a consulting attorney and has been a consultant for the NBA and NHL as well.

But while he’s had success with other leagues, he certainly has his work cut out for him with this new CBA deal for the NFL. When you sift past the proposed topics like an 18-game schedule and the restructuring of rookie salaries, what these discussions ultimately come down to is money. As John Paulsen recently pointed out, if the numbers are correct, the union is currently getting 60% of revenues right now, or around $4.8 million (after the owners get a $1 billion credit). The owners are getting $4.2 billion and seemingly want more of a 50/50 split when it comes to revenue sharing.

The union knows that it has to take a paycut in order for a new deal to be signed. But it’s looking for a trim while the owners want to take out their clippers. Hopefully that’s where Cohen comes in to strike a compromise for both sides.

What a compromise looks like, I don’t know. Maybe the players will have to agree to an 18-game schedule (which they vehemently oppose) to allow the math to work for them to not to take too big a financial hit under the new CBA. Maybe the NFL will have to modify its salary cap structure so that the floor of the cap (which was $108 million in 2009) would be raised to help offset the lowering of the cap ceiling.

Whatever and wherever the comprise comes from, I couldn’t care less. I just want football next year, so let’s hope Cohen can work his magic.

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