Things are going to get complicated in the coming days. Previously, it was expected that the NFLPA’s voting on whether or not to approve the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement that is on the table would conclude at the end of Thursday night, and that there would be a good sense of whether or not it would pass by that afternoon.
This is a pretty big deal, at least for those teams who have an eye toward using the franchise tag, as Thursday, at 4PM, is also the deadline for teams to place the tag on one of their players. This would be relevant to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their estimation of whether or not to do so with pending free agent Bud Dupree.
Unless the deadline for tagging players is also moved back—for a second time, as it was originally supposed to end on Tuesday—this is going to force the Steelers to work under the assumption that there will be no new CBA, and thus would have to make roster decisions accordingly.
You might be thinking that this would be a problem regardless of whether or not the date is moved. If the deadline for the franchise tag is at 4PM, and the deadline for voting on the CBA is at midnight, then it would be impossible to place the franchise tag on a player while the new CBA is in effect.
But teams are not required to be cap-compliant until the start of the new league year, which is not until next week on Tuesday at 4PM, so they could be $16 million in the red as far as the cap is concerned at 3PM on the 18th, as long as they can balance it out within an hour.
In other words, they could work under the assumption that there will be a new CBA, or even with the knowledge that there will be a CBA, before it’s actually in place, and base their roster moves accordingly, provided that they can get cap-compliant by next Tuesday evening.
If there is a two-day gap between the tag deadline and the voting deadline, however, that’s a significant margin, with still many players yet to cast their votes. Everybody seems to have an opinion about whether or not it will pass—outgoing union president Eric Winston believes it will pass by ‘a lot’—but you don’t want to make a move you can’t undo unless you know for sure under what rules you’re operating.
The Steelers are tight against the cap and it’s absolutely assured that, in the event that they do tag Dupree, they will have to release multiple players in order to be cap-compliant. Whether or not there will be a new CBA in place will help determine which and how many players they will need to release, and how much cap space they can create via restructures unhindered by the 30 percent rule, which is only in effect to govern the final year of a CBA deal.