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NFL owners approve framework of new CBA, sending issue to players for vote

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The league side is apparently together on their ideas. But there’s still plenty of uncertainty on whether the players will sign off.

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the last few weeks have elapsed, there is more and more movement taking place on a new collective bargaining agreement in the NFL. The league and the players’ union are currently operating under an agreement signed in 2011, but the ten-year deal expires with the start of the 2021 league year.

With neither side seemingly wanting to face the possibility of a work stoppage, there have been numerous reports recently about the two groups coming together to work on a new deal. One of the most significant issues is that the owners want to add a 17th regular season game for each team.

As of Thursday afternoon, it appears that the owners are now united on the general framework of a new CBA — or they at least have enough members of the group in support of this new deal to pass it. A statement from the NFL revealed that the owners have approved the principal negotiated terms of a new deal:

Following more than ten months of intensive and thorough negotiations, the NFL Players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players – past, present, and future – both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL’s second century is even better and more exciting for the fans.
The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement.
Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms. Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time.

The upshot here is that the owners are on board. This statement comes from the league itself, so it reflects the owners’ perspective on the negotiations and their sign-off — an important caveat. While the first paragraph indicates that both sides developed a framework for a new CBA together, the NFLPA has yet to vote or provide significant public comment on any terms of a new deal.

Still, rumors have trickled out about the content of that new deal. A 17-game regular season schedule is a major change, as would a rumored move to add one team to the postseason in each conference. This would send 14 of the league’s 32 franchises to the playoffs, resulting in only the top seed in each conference getting a bye on Wild Card weekend.

Following the statement, NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero reported on how compensation might work for a 17th game:

It appears that this would apply only to contracts that have been signed before a new CBA is ratified, based on the phrasing of his first sentence. Furthermore, players making less than $4 million in base salary per year would simply get a full additional game check, while those on contracts exceeding that amount would get this proposed maximum $250k for that extra game.

Pelissero also notes that all players make the same amount for postseason games, suggesting that this proposed plan has some equivalency to the way the league pays players in the playoffs.

For reference, here is the pay scale for this past postseason, which finds Wild Card and Divisional round participants around $30,000 per game and increasing for the conference championships and Super Bowl.

Reporter Ian Rapoport, who works for the NFL, suggested that this plan is a “good sign” for the players’ vote on the proposal tomorrow. It would seem to work for the majority of players, whose base salaries are under $4 million, but those over that mark are sure to feel slighted. For example, Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari provided Rapoport with a response that seems less-than-excited:

As a player with a large contract, Bakhtiari would seem to be shorted by this idea. His normal game checks in 2020 will be worth $656,250, based on his base salary of $10.5 million. If the 17-game schedule were to kick in for 2020, he would get almost $400,000 less for playing that extra regular season game than he would for the others.

Also worth noting is that this plan would not be much benefit to players who have big contracts, but who have low base salaries and large signing and roster bonuses. Aaron Rodgers is one example of this for 2020: he is due a $5.24 million roster bonus early in the 2020 league year, but has only $1.55 million in base salary. Therefore, his game checks come to $96,875, and he would receive that much additional if the league were to go to a 17-game schedule right away in 2020.

As the league and Rapoport indicated, the decision now belongs to the players’ association. Stay tuned on Friday for reports on the union’s decision and any additional details that may come out regarding the terms of the proposed CBA.