MIAMI ( – A new week has begun, but the NFL lockout continued as Monday became day 124 of the NFL’s work stoppage. But, for Dolphins fans and NFL fans in general, there seems to be real momentum to getting a deal done this week.

If the two sides can complete a deal by Thursday; the owners can ratify a deal to end the longest work stoppage in NFL history. On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan will rejoin the talks in hopes of ironing out differences.

Judge Boylan has been key in keeping the talks moving forward, but was on vacation last week. There are just a few issues left, mainly surrounding how to re-establish the union and resolving the anti-trust lawsuit including multiple named players/plaintiffs.

The players launched a last-ditch effort to extract a little bit more from the deal over the weekend when they asked for over $300 million in unpaid benefits from the 2010 uncapped season be restored. This would also likely tie-in with the lockout insurance case must also be resolved.

Plus, the players now want the franchise tag to be limited to one year or usage. Currently, a player can be tagged for two seasons at the average salary of the top five players at the position. After the two years, the tag explodes to the average of the top five quarterbacks.

This could prove to be a major sticking point for the players. One of the named plaintiffs is New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins. The All-Pro guard has been tagged by the Patriots for two years in a row and wants his freedom to pursue a rich free-agent contract.

Mankins, being a named plaintiff, must approve of the deal that will resolve the CBA and the anti-trust case. If he will be prevented from getting a new deal, he has the power to throw the whole lockout into a mess.

That’s not likely to happen, but it is one of the many interrelated issues that continue to spring roadblocks to the completion of a new collective bargaining agreement.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said he will do “whatever is necessary” to complete a new CBA. Mortensen also reported that teams will be allowed to sign their own free agents starting Friday for 72 hours.

After that point, unrestricted free agency would start for teams to sign any free agent.

But, before that can happen the new CBA must be completed, the union must re-certify, the plaintiffs must approve the deal, and the owners must approve the deal. All of that has to be completed before Thursday to have time to get the deal done.

If everything falls into place, the Bears and Rams should be able to open training camp on time and the Hall of Fame game between the two teams will be saved. Both sides don’t want to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in preseason money, so time is running out for a new deal to be approved.


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