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CBA update - owners & union have changed the 2020 Franchise Tag start date

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Washington Redskins v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero seems to have taken the lead role as the guy who has the best sources and fastest twitter fingers for reporting on the CBA. His Twitter timeline is a veritable gold mine of information about what’s gone on with the CBA negotiations this week.

Here’s his latest:

Previous to this, teams could begin to designate franchise tags players starting 25 February, and extending through 10 March. This joint decision from the NFL and NFLPA is stongly indicative that the two sides believe that there may be progress on the agreement as a result of the scheduled meeting between owners and union leaders on Tuesday the 25th in Indianapolis.

Instituting a 48-hour delay in the first significant rule to impact the 2020 league year may provide enough time for the negotiation teams to clear the air on some sticking points and move forward on ratification of a new CBA in time to beat the (new) 27 February date for teams to begin designating franchise-tagged players.

Pelissero’s tweet offers an alternative arrangement if the deadline isn’t met, saying that if agreement isn’t reached prior to 27 February, then teams will be allowed to apply both the franchise tag and transition tag to players, as per the provisions of the current (2011) CBA, which has special rules for this, the final year of the agreement.

It has been previously reported that, if the new agreement is ratified ahead of the new league year, it would take effect immediately, replacing the 2011 CBA in the 2020 league year. Pelissero’s tweet tells us that, if the new agreement is ratified after teams have already designated two players under the franchise tag system, then, when the new CBA replaces the current one in the coming days, the rule would simply go back to one tag per team, and any team that had used two would get something akin to a “do over”.

While Pelissero mentions the Titans as well, the team that has gotten the most attention as likely to utilize both tags has been the Dallas Cowboys. The expectation is that they will use the Franchise Tag on Dak Prescott and the Transition Tag on Amari Cooper — a strategy that would not be available if the new agreement supplants the 2011 document. While the speculation on the Cowboys using two tags has been in the media for a long time, one suspects that Jerry and Stephen Jones have been well aware all along that the new agreement could be ratified and take the opportunity away. I have no doubt that they have a Plan B, and I could even envision Jerruh waiting a week or so to allow for clarity before making a move with the franchise tags.

This entire experience over the past few weeks has been a lesson in labor law, drama and Twitter reporting. It’s interesting to see national sports reporters learning on the fly as they ask important questions about the process that hadn’t seemed necessary just days or hours before.

Clearly, the situation in this negotiation is fluid, but the amount of wiggle room in both time and negotiating positions is wearing thin. We will soon be counting deadlines, not in days, but in hours, and failure to reach agreement, while not disastrous, would probably feel like a letdown after months of expectations. Such a lack of agreement would also open the door to labor action in the form of a lockout or strike in 2021, which wouldn’t likely be good for anyone concerned.