While much in the sports world and world in general has been put to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL players were at work, voting to approve a new collective bargaining agreement with the owners. This vote was a narrow 60-vote margin with 1019 voting yes. The league will expand the playoffs to 14 teams starting with the fall of this year with the owners having the opportunity to add an extra regular season game, perhaps as early as 2021.
The deal is technically 11 years since there are changes to certain rules that were to go into effect this year. In essence, this near deal shreds the final year of the old CBA running for 11 years.
As for expanding the season, the owners have three seasons (2021 to 2023) to add an extra game to the schedule. It’s uncertain at this point how this will work, since some teams will have an extra home game while others will be left out. Questions also remains as to how the bye weeks will be scheduled and if an additional one will be added. Because an initial game is already seen by many players as too much on their bodies, they clearly wanted to make sure they got enough in return.
So what will the players be getting? Of course, more money in the form of higher revenue starting in 2021. Adding more teams to the playoffs will bring in a projected $150 million more and with players getting 47 percent of the revenue, adds to over $70 million for the players. In 2021, players will get 48 percent of the revenue, which could increase contingent on new television deals. The players will get even more based on the size of those contracts. In addition, the players are set to receive 70 percent of any revenue that goes beyond projections for that year.
While the rich generally get richer, the players on the lower end of the pay scale will see the greatest gain in pay. This could be because nearly two-thirds of all NFL players are on minimum salary contracts. Contacts will be adjusted if there is an additional game added, increasing salary by 1/17 (almost 6%) of their current pay per season for that extra game.
While the MLB and NBA are able to have guaranteed contracts, that still isn’t the case in the NFL, even with the new agreement. There is a rule that could help players eventually get guaranteed contracts by increasing deductibles which theoretically could give players and agents more of a case to demand more guarantees.
The new agreements also give players on the fringe more of a chance to make the active day rosters with the increase from 46 to 48 players. Practice squads will also increase by two players for 2020 and 2021 and four players for 2022. Two of those members could be added to the active roster per week, therefore the changes give teams increased roster maneuverability.
There have been changes make to the drug testing policies, including elimination of suspensions for those testing positive for marijuana use. If the test is positive, it gets reviewed by a medical board to determine if the player is in need of any treatment.
Policy changes have also been made on performance-enhancing drugs, resulting in two-game suspension for a failed test for stimulants or diuretics. A heftier six-game suspension is in place for failing an anabolic steroids test and an eight-game suspension for use of a prohibited substance. Second offenses range from five games to seventeen games.
With seven teams per conference in play for the postseason, there will be three wild-card teams and only one team in each conference will get a first-round bye. As for ideas of expanding to an 18-game schedule, fans must wait until at least 2031 for the possibility. The deal also put limits on the number of international games that can be held in a season through 2025 to ten. At that time, that could be increased if players and owners agree open it.
The additional changes benefit players and owners alike. For those that like additional football, the extra playoff teams add more excitement in the postseason with the possibility of more regular season and less preseason action starting in 2021.
In a move that has been historically unprecedented, all major sports are currently on hiatus. With these shutdowns, and also upcoming downturn to the economy, sports betting sites are also taking a hit. On top of that, there is no clear indication as to when this situation will improve.
Let’s hope everything in the world settles down by summer so the NFL can prepare for what should be an entertaining 2020 season. Last season’s performance was such a surprise for many fans; it will be exciting to see what coach Matt LaFleur has up his sleeve for us.