The dance between NFL owners and the Player's Association regarding a new Collective Bargaining Agreement began in earnest this week at the annual league meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But, an agreement is still a ways off. Talks are expected to take place next month, according to NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash, but just how long they would take is largely unknown.
Although the current CBA doesn't expire for nearly two years, both sides are marking their own boundaries for the upcoming negotiations.
Owners unanimously voted to end the CBA last year, which could lead to a 2010 season devoid of a salary cap and perhaps even a work stoppage in 2011.
One of the biggest issues facing each group is the disclosure of financial information for every team in the league.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wants the NFL to turn over audited statements to the Player's Association, but Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that much of that data is already available because the salary cap is based on a percentage of league revenue. Roughly 60 percent of league revenue goes to player salaries.
"They know our revenue to the penny and it is audited by outside auditors," Goodell said in a press conference at the meeting. "They clearly know our player costs. That's the majority of our costs. And they know a lot of our stadium costs. But as it relates to getting an agreement, we're going to share the appropriate information to try to reach an agreement that's fair.
"There's a very clear understanding of our economics. If [DeMaurice] being new to the situation needs a better understanding of our economics we're certainly willing to go through that with him."
Smith believes more education is needed.
"Would you buy a car with only half the information about base price?" Smith said, according to FoxSports.com. "It seems to me that [the owners] are the ones who opted out of the agreement and are preparing for a lockout. They are the ones who have said the agreement needs fixing because it doesn't adequately respond to their core issues. If that is true, show us."
Player compensation is also closely tied to whether the league will increase the schedule from 16 to 17 or even 18 regular-season games.
Owners didn't vote on the issue, but it was discussed. Goodell said a decision won't be made until players get involved in June.
Goodell thinks expanding the schedule and reducing the amount of preseason games would be better for the integrity of the game and the product fans watch on Sunday – not to mention bring in more earnings, especially in light of the new two-year contract extensions with CBS and Fox – but players are concerned that they will be more at risk for injury.
"We've wanted to talk to all parties both internally and externally," Goodell explained. "We've talked to our media partners. Clearly they see value in additional regular season games. We will begin negotiations and discussions with our players to talk about what we've found in our analysis.
"It's important when you're dealing with the core of your product, your game, that you be very careful. So we want to make sure that we haven't missed anything."
Goodell has also expressed concern about the exorbitant salaries doled out to draft picks every year. Some veteran players have offered similar sentiments.
"I understand there's a great deal of disagreement by veteran players on this issue,'' said Smith. "But no player was in a war room for the draft, selecting that player for that team. Why is a rookie wage scale now our issue?''
While both sides seem to be far apart on the hot topics surrounding the CBA, they are both also optimistic that an agreement can be reached.
"I know that now that we have a new union head, both parties will be able to sit down and talk about the issue," stated Ravens president Dick Cass. "I know both the union and the league are going to work hard to correct the situation."