When it comes to discussing the future of league-player relations, things tend to get complicated rather quickly. There is a history of discord between the two sides, which most famously resulted in a shortened season that included the use of replacement players during the 1982 season. There was also a lockout during the 2011 season that impacted the offseason significantly, but a deal was reached prior to the start of the regular season.
The 2011 edition of the Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified for 10 seasons, but the next round of negotiations has already been talked about for a while now. Earlier today, the NFLPA held a press conference during which was addressed a number of issues, including the state of the next round of negotiations.
Union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was asked point blank if there is any chance that the current CBA as is could be renewed, rather than there being a lengthy renegotiation process, and he answered, pointedly, with a “no “response.
Are there any circumstances in which De Smith could see extending the collective bargaining agreement? “No.” Could have discussions early about changes in next CBA, etc., but there are number of issues both sides want to change, so no stapling an addendum on current deal.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 1, 2018
Not that that should be particularly surprising. There are a number of things that were passed in the previous CBA that players have not been comfortable with, even if it was ultimately ratified, in part due to public pressure. Among their concerns is the unilateral power of the commissioner, which even some owners have weighed in on.
As Tom Pelissero Tweeted, “there are [a] number of issues both sides want to change, so no stapling an addendum on [the] current deal”. I would imagine that one thing the owners would like to see scaled back is the limited access coaches have to the players in the offseason, something that even many of the players are concerned about. It would be hard to argue that it has not had an impact in the quality of play. But the players would not give this up without concessions from the other side.
Union chief De Smith says he cannot imagine a situation where the CBA would be simply extended as it is. “Might we have discussions earlier so there would be a new one? Perhaps.” …. Added Eric Winston: “We are preparing for a long arduous process.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 1, 2018
President Eric Winston added that the union is “preparing for a long, arduous process, which is to be expected. CBA negotiations rarely go very smoothly in any realm, be it sports or elsewhere, as employers and employees clash on what one side of the other should or should not be entitled to.
Both Smith and Winston said that it is possible negotiations between the two sides may begin earlier in the hopes of avoiding the situation that they faced the last time around, which resulted in the disruption of offseason activities and affected free agency, particularly for undrafted free agents, who could not sign with a team until the new CBA was approved. Players like Will Johnson were completely left out because of it.
One concern that I have about the next round of negotiations, whenever it is set to take place, is the loss of Dan Rooney, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who passed away in 2017. A longtime fixture in the league, he was instrumental in helping bridge the gap between players and owners in every renegotiation that has taken place since he has been an active presence. In his absence, things could get uglier and more divisive.