While the bulk of the sports world is shut down amid concerns over the COVID-19 virus, the NFL’s offseason continues on, mostly remotely. Now, the biggest single football-related story of this spring has come to a close, setting the rules for the sport over the next decade.
Over the past week, the NFL Players Association voted on whether or not to approve the new collective bargaining agreement that the group’s leadership had negotiated with the NFL’s owners. Voting closed at 11:59 PM Eastern on Saturday, and with all the votes tallied, it appears that the NFLPA has the new agreement. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that league sources have confirmed the union's acceptance of the deal.
The new CBA will take effect with the 2020 league year, which is set to begin on Wednesday, March 18th, at 4:00 PM. Along with that time comes the start of unrestricted free agency, which gets moving in earnest two days earlier — at noon on Monday — with the opening of the legal tampering period.
The approval of the CBA opens the door for a 17-game schedule to go into effect sometime in the next few seasons, along with expanded playoff fields going to a total of 14 teams. Those changes will surely help the NFL negotiate bigger television contracts in the coming years, likely sending more money into the league and into the pockets of both the players and the owners.
However, even with a 17th game added in, the players will still receive less than half of the league’s revenue. Teams must pay out 48.5% of the revenue to the players once the 17th game kicks in, or 48% if no 17th game is added (a highly unlikely scenario).
Ultimately, the biggest benefits to the players come for those on the bottom end of the pay scale. League minimum salaries will increase faster, more roster spots will be available, and there will be other benefits that should help these players.
However, the Green Bay Packers had a handful of vocal opponents to the CBA, particularly among their stars. The team’s player representative, Aaron Rodgers, was outspoken in his criticism of the deal before the voting period began, having voted against it during the initial reps’ voting phase. At that time, the reps passed the CBA to the full membership for a vote by a 17-14 margin (with one rep abstaining). Likewise, tackle David Bakhtiari was also vocal in his displeasure with the deal on social media.
Although free agency seems set to go ahead as planned under the new CBA, there is a strong possibility that the league will announce a change to the 2020 NFL Draft, set to be held in Las Vegas this April. Bears Insider’s Hub Arkush reported late Saturday night that the league already decided to move the draft before the vote was complete but was waiting until the result became public to announce the change. Stay tuned for any addition information about this potential change.