There is no bigger story this offseason than the state of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is scheduled to enter into its final year in 2020. If a new deal is not reached between the NFL and the NFLPA by the start of the new league year—indeed, before it—there will be direct implications about how teams can do business immediately.
Generally, the tone of the negotiations has been significantly tempered in comparison to past rounds, during which both parties have used the media to make hostile accusations against the other. This round of negotiations appears to have been far less acrimonious.
In fact, by some estimates, it almost sounds as though a deal is nearly done—or that even a deal would be done, were it not for the NFL’s insistence to stand for an expansion of the regular season into a 17th game. The season is already 17 weeks long, with a bye. Adding another game, they may add a second bye as well, elongating the year to 19 weeks.
There are many things that would have to be factored into this, such as player compensation, of course. If you’re going to be asked to do more work, you surely would expect to be paid more. From what I’ve gathered, the negotiations are at a point at which there is the blueprint of a deal that the NFL and the NFLPA board could be content with.
The problem is that the board has to present this proposal, with the 17-game schedule, first to the team’s player representatives, and it sounds as though there are extreme doubts as to whether or not there will be enough support there.
The player representatives first have to pass the proposal, which would then be given to the full body of members of the NFLPA to vote on. It would only take a majority vote in order to ratify the new CBA on the players’ behalf.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ players were the only ones the last time around not to approve the last CBA, believing that the owners were given too much, and frankly many players went on to live to regret agreeing to that deal.
I’m frankly very interested to see what this deal eventually looks like, and the 17-game schedule isn’t even one of my biggest concerns. There are so many issues that have been debated that I’m still surprised that we have supposedly come as far as we have in the process, to the point where it’s realistic a new deal could be in place in time for the start of free agency.
But pushback from the players could doom that reality and lengthen the process, as is their right. It’s hypocritical of the league to push for player safety while also expecting its players to play another full game every year. I just don’t know if the league would be willing to drop that without catastrophic concessions the other way.