The last time the NFL and the NFLPA came to the table to complete a Collective Bargaining Agreement, the only word that would be fair to use in describing it would be contentious. The owners locked the players out after the CBA expired following the 2010 season, and it took most of the offseason for the two sides to work out a new deal, just in time to hold a truncated training camp and a normal regular season.
Other things, however, were lost. The only offseason events that took place as scheduled were free agency and the draft. Undrafted players were not permitted to sign with teams until a new deal had been reached, and there were no spring workouts.
The NFL in particular wants to avoid a similar situation this time around, even though they were the ones who locked the players out, according to Dan Graziano, writing for ESPN. In fact, he reports that the league would like to try to get a new deal done by the start of the 2019 season. The current CBA runs through the 2020 season.
According to his report, there have been direct player-to-owner meetings, one per month, for the past three months, but serious talks are set to commence in a couple of weeks, where the two sides intend to get together for a three-day period to try to address some of the thorniest issues that might hold up an arrangement.
Graziano lists some reasons that the league is motivated this time not just to ensure that there is no work stoppage but also to try to get an agreement in the can early. Part of it is the fact that they are in the preparatory phase of celebrating their 100th season. They obviously don’t want to have the specter of labor strife hanging over their heads during their centennial celebrations.
More pragmatically, the final year of a CBA is governed differently than others that includes its own regulations for the salary cap and contracts, which can include an uncapped year the way the 2010 season was. Multiple teams received fines for their conduct during that time.
Another factor is the near future of new television deal negotiations. It stands to reason that the NFL would have a weaker negotiating position if they can’t convince their distributors that there will be no work stoppages without a shadow of a doubt.
While this doesn’t have to be in place by the start of the 2019 season, it would be incredibly beneficial if they can get it done by the start of the new league year in March of 2020, or even sooner, because the rules of the final year of a CBA also affect things like franchise tags and tenders, which are applied prior to the start of the league year.