With the COVID-19 pandemic basically shutting down the sports world, there is very little going on in said sports world, except the NFL. With a much closer than expected vote, 1019 to 959, the players have voted to approve the new collective bargaining agreement. Although the players got a lot in this new agreement, there was a lot of concern over adding a 17th game to the regular season.
Many of the NFL’s better known players spoke out against the new CBA, including Richard Sherman, Aaron Rodgers and Russel Wilson. At the end of the day, however, this passing of the agreement by the players ensures that there will not be and work stoppages until at least after the 2030 season.
What does a 17 game season look like?
For starters, the preseason will undoubtedly be shortened, which will not upset anybody. The 17 game season will not start until 2021, but obviously there will be some teams with one more road game than home game. In theory this would rotate year to year, but it will be interesting to see how that affects teams making the playoffs and making a run in the playoffs.
Technically the 17th game cannot be added until after the new TV contracts are done, which is why the earliest we will see a 17 game season is 2021, but we all know that the owners will make sure that happens as soon as possible.
Speaking of the playoffs, there will be two additional teams added to the playoff picture starting in 2020. This means there will only be one bye week given out to the top seed in each conference, and 7 total teams on each side. How big of a deal only having one team with a bye is yet to be determined.
What else are the players getting?
The owners wanted the 17 game season, and eventually an 18 game season, and they knew they were going to have to give some to get it. To start with, the players will get 48.5% of the revenue brought in by the league as soon as the season goes to 17 games, which is up from 47%. The roster sizes have been increased as well, up to 48 for game day and 55 total, which are up from 46 and 53 respectively. The practice squad will also increase by 2 players, from 10 to 12.
Probably the reason that the players vote passed in the first place was the increase in minimum salaries, which affects over half of the current players. The rookie minimum salary will increase $100,000 in 2020, another $50,000 in 2021 and $45,000 every year after that. The other players minimum salary will increase by $90,000 in 2020, then $80K-105K in 2021, then $45k every year after that.
Obviously that doesn’t affect players like Richard Sherman and Aaron Rodgers, or even the 22 starters that you probably know from your favorite team. But there are many more in the league that this was a key point in voting for the new CBA. Considering the average career in the NFL is just over 3 years, you have to make those 3 years count for as much as they can, and now with the new CBA they will.
That being said, the salary cap this year will be increased to $198.2 million per team, from $188.2, so I am sure that the above players will definitely get their share of the pie.
There was also an increase of 10% for current players pensions, and expanded pension eligibility for all former players with 3 or more seasons. In addition, there is a retroactive increase of $550 to all pre-2012 vested players, as well as setting up a $50K HRA for former players without an HRA. Most importantly, there will be a new network of hospitals in each team city for players to get no cost physicals, preventative care, mental health counseling and out-patient orthopedic services.
Current players will also see increases in 401K matching, up to $30K, and annuity increased to $110K, with increases yearly as well. They will also see increases in tuition reimbursement, HRA increases, and injury protection of 100% up to 2 million and extended injury protection of 100% up to 1 million.
Fines and Suspensions
There will be no more suspensions for players strictly on a positive test, and the testing window will be narrowed from 4 months to the 2 weeks at the start of training camp. There will be penalties for a positive test but no missed games. In addition, there will be a reduction in players subjected to testing, and the nanogram limit will be increased from 35 to 150.
Players always collectively bargained am overall reduction in on-field fines as well as a reduction in club fines. Most importantly, there will now be a neutral decision maker for most Commisioner Discipline cases. I am interested to see how Roger Goodell will be used in these cases going forward.
Training Camp Changes
There are further reductions in the amount of padded practices, down to 16 from 28. Whether that will see an increase in injuries when the regular season begins is unknown. Each of these padded practices will have a maximum of 2.5 hours each, and no more than 3 consecutive days in 3 of the 5 weeks, and no more than 2 consecutive in the other two weeks.
Teams will be limited to 4 joint practices if there are 3 preseason games, and guaranteed a 3-day weekend after the preseason before the regular season begins once the 17th game is added.
The new league year begins on Monday, March 16 at noon EST. Most of the owners really wanted to get this deal done as soon as possible for the TV money, and many players who are entering free agency wanted it done for the inevitable increase in contracts.
Those are the main points in the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement. What do you think? Did the players get enough to warrant a 17th game? Did the get too much? Let me know in the comments below!