After months of debate, and enough opinions to make one’s head swim, the NFL Player Association has approved a new labor agreement with the league.
In a surprising decision, part of the agreement includes the addition of one more regular-season game to the league schedule.
Players have voted to approve the new NFL CBA.
➖ Two playoff teams added for 2020
➖ 17-game season in 2021
➖ Increase in min. salaries
➖ Increase in player revenue share
It will run through 2030. pic.twitter.com/EZazq07WoG
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 15, 2020
This means a 17 game season, which marks the first time since 1978 that the league has added more games.
Before 1978, the NFL had played 14 games each year, dating back to 1961.
This particular portion of the new agreement comes as a shock to most people, fans included.
A 17 game season had been dismissed in previous years as players cited safety concerns.
Chief among those concerns was the threat of increased concussions and CTE related disability.
Apparently, the NFL owners sweetened the new agreement enough that the players were willing to accept the risks.
What is a Collective Bargaining Agreement?
The NFL Players Association is essentially a union.
The union meets to collectively discuss points of interest and contention brought forth by the NFL team owners.
The NFLPA will talk about whether the proposed points of interest will benefit the players or cause more harm than good.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, will hammer out such things as allocation of league revenues between the owners and players; health and safety standards for the players; and, perhaps most important, benefits.
These benefits include pensions and medical benefits for the NFL players.
In the recent past, the medical benefits portion of the CBA had been a confrontational one for the two sides.
When the threat of dementia and CTE finally made its way into the forefront of public knowledge, the NFLPA acted.
In the 2011 CBA, the agreement language changed to ensure the future safety of players as well as the future care of its retired veterans.
The agreed-upon benefits in 2011 included retroactive pension increases for retired players and the creation of a study to closely examine the neuro-cognitive benefits of players affected by concussions.
The 2011 CBA also limited the number of off-season and in-season practices as well as prohibiting two-a-days in training camp.
The 2011 agreement and its provisions were set to expire after the 2020 season.
Features of the New CBA
Only a week ago, the NFLPA executive board rejected the proposed CBA with a 6-5 vote against while the player representatives voted 17-14 in favor of the new agreement.
Opposition to the proposed document was fierce among active players.
Notable names such as Jarvis Landry, JJ Watt, Todd Gurley, and Aaron Rodgers spoke out against the terms of the agreement.
However, enough players were interested that the final vote from the nearly 2,500 union members was 1019-959 in favor.
Now players, owners, and fans will be left to wonder about the logistics of a 17 games season.
Specifically, how many teams will have nine home games and which teams won’t?
Will the league include neutral site games to compensate?
The 17 game season will not be in place until the 2021 season at the earliest.
That gives the league office time to work out the kinks.
The NFL owners were a little more generous in the proposed gains to negate the potential player safety concerns.
Primarily, the players would receive “a bigger portion of the growing pie,” according to outgoing NFLPA president Eric Swinton.
Among the many deal points, the new agreement language includes: an increase of league revenues for the players, depending on the length of the season; cutting back the number of pre-season games from four to three; more time off during training camps; enhanced pensions including groups of previous players not included in past agreements; additional roster spots for each team from 53 to 55; larger practice squads and less limitations on movement for said players.
The league even negotiated reducing the testing period for player marijuana use and cutting back on the discipline for using the drug.
Even more appealing for teams and players, the new salary cap for 2020 is a whopping $198.2 million.
The NFL Management Council just informed team officials the salary cap will be $198.2 million per club in 2020, per sources.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 15, 2020
This could grow even more once the league has negotiated new deals with its television and broadcast partners.
The new CBA will be in place through the 2030 season.
Time will tell if this new agreement will truly benefit the players or serve as a cautionary tale for increased risk of debilitating injury.