The CFL is extremely popular in Canada. We all know that and the NFL does too. A good number of Canadians like the NFL too though, but probably not at the expense of the CFL. This gives the CFL great strength in any talks with the NFL.
Bob Ackles knows football probably better than anybody else in Canada and probably even anybody in North America. He is the Dean of football. As a high level executive of four NFL teams, the man understands as much as anyone can about how football works (both the business and the game), all the way from the top down to lowest level guy on the field. And he can speak for BOTH leagues. Not listening to him would be a humongous blunder.
So the CFL should not panic. They have extreme support in Canada, the league is strong (though not rich), and they have Bob Ackles, a man who is a booster who can negotiate with the best of them.
Let the NFL come cap-in-hand to the CFL, because that's what they have to do if they want the support of a majority of Canadians. They need to show the CFL some respect and some love. If they do that they have a chance of not alienating pretty much an entire nation (and a large portion of the football community in North America) and galvanizing them against the NFL.
The NFL should show CFL games on the NFL Network and pay the CFL handsomely for the privilege.
The NFL must continue to respect CFL contracts. If an NFL team wants a CFL player they must wait 'til after the Grey Cup, and if the player is on contract they must buy out the contract and pay a bonus to the team in the form of players, cash or both. In exchange the CFL will not unreasonably refuse to let go of a player unless it's a marquee player such as a QB, in which case the compensation would be MUCH higher.
The NFL must NEVER refer to the CFL as a "feeder" league or any other condescending name, and there should be fines for anybody involved with the NFL who does - not that anybody does that now because most of them know what the CFL is all about, but in the future if there is a deal drawing the leagues closer together.
The NFL must pledge to NEVER allow a team in Canada. End of story. Single games are OK as long as they are after the Grey Cup, and the CFL will support those games as a full and equal partner of the NFL in Canada, by providing promotion and personnel as needed. If the NFL wants to call a team in Buffalo the Toronto Sams, then the CFL will not object.
The NFL must properly acknowledge the Canadian roots of football and publicly and prominently say so on their web site.
The CFL and the NFL can continue to get along and even help each other. It can happen, and if the NFL makes nice to the CFL they can even win some respect in Canada for actually helping the CFL. Cohon and Ackles can negotiate a favourable deal, but they need the support of the majority of fans (which they already have) and some clout with government (which they are working on). When the CFL finally expands in Canada it will only serve to make the CFL a truly national institution - and that, more than anything else, will keep the NFL dogs at bay. The NFL stands to gain respect and fans in Canada by not stepping on CFL toes. This means TV contracts and possibly fans for Buffalo-based Toronto team.