Under NFLPA procedures, the CBA would have to be approved by two-thirds of the 32 team-by-team representatives, then by a majority of all NFL players. There was enough resistance to a 17-game season during two previous meetings to believe that further concessions are needed to put the CBA to a ratification vote of all players, according to those people familiar with the NFLPA’s deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the union has not commented publicly on the details of its internal conversations.
But the opposition to a 17-game season was not sufficiently overwhelming for the players to eliminate the possibility of ratifying a CBA with that provision in it, those people said.
“We are still in negotiations,” a person on the players’ side said. “And if we are still negotiating, it’s positive.”
It is not known if the league and owners are willing to make further concessions. Some on the owners’ side appear to regard the proposed CBA as a completed deal that was negotiated with the NFLPA leadership. Owners based some of their previous concessions to the players on the premise that there would be a 17-game season.
The hopes of some on both sides that the new CBA would be approved and in place by the Super Bowl were scuttled when the player reps did not vote during their meeting in Miami to put the deal to a ratification vote of all players. The next logical target for the two sides is March 18, the beginning of the new league year and the opening of the NFL’s free agent market.
The NFL has denied that it told the players that March 18 is the deadline to accept the CBA. But there are certain aspects of the deal that would take effect immediately if it is ratified, meaning ratification would have to come before the onset of the new league year and free agency for those provisions to impact the economics of the league this offseason. It also would be possible for the two sides to postpone the start of the league year and free agency, if they wish, if they believe that would lead to approval of the new CBA.
The new CBA would last for 10 years and would give the players about 48.3 percent of league revenue under the salary cap system. The league and owners would have the option to extend the regular season from 16 to 17 games per team beginning at some point during the CBA, probably tied to the onset of new network TV deals. The owners believe the longer regular season would be highly attractive to the networks and would boost the league’s revenue considerably.
The preseason would be reduced in conjunction with the lengthening of the regular season, and the NFL playoff field could be expanded from 12 to 14 teams beginning at some point during the CBA. The league’s drug policies and its system of player discipline would be modified in ways favorable to the players. It is believed that the marijuana policy, in particular, would be made less punitive. There could be further restrictions on teams’ offseason workouts and the amount of hitting done by players during training camp and on the practice field during the season.
The current 10-year CBA runs through the 2020 season. If the deliberations on a new CBA break down, it’s likely that both sides would intensify preparations for a potential work stoppage in 2021.
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