According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, sources familiar with the NFL CBA talks tell them that the NFL Players Association leaders have scheduled an important meeting Thursday morning in South Florida with the board of player representatives to discuss the status of collective bargaining talks and get the board’s input on how to proceed.
It’s a major step in the right direction after months of formal and informal bargaining sessions between the union and the NFL, which continues to push for the option to expand the regular season to 17 games as part of the next TV deals as a condition for increasing players’ share of revenue and other issues. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2020 regular season, and both sides want to avoid any sort of work stoppage.
The chances for striking a deal hinge in large part on how players respond to the idea of 17 games. Recently, some players have voiced their displeasure with the idea of playing 17 games, including 49ers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who played 17 regular-season games this year because of his midseason trade from the Broncos. As previously reported, if the 17-game schedule was not included in these CBA discussions, then a deal most likely would have been struck already.
Under the NFLPA’s constitution, the 11-man executive committee, led by president Eric Winston, is responsible for negotiating a new CBA and making a recommendation to the board with the best offer. Sources tell Rapoport and Pelissero that the executive committee has not yet made any such recommendation, and one source said it’s possible the board could bring a proposal on a new collective bargaining agreement to all players after the meeting; another source called that a “dream scenario” that is unlikely.
The central issue throughout negotiations has been the revenue split, and players are expected to receive an uptick from the 47% of total revenue they are guaranteed under the current CBA, which was approved in 2011. The union has long hoped to achieve that increase without adding games, but the league has pushed all along for a lever that would allow them to add games as part of the next TV deal.
In a January 16 memo to players, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wrote: “The negotiations thus far have proceeded with the NFL conditioning proposed increases in economics and other improvements on a potential 17 game model, with reduced preseason games and potentially an expanded playoff schedule.”
Smith’s memo confirmed the sides have reached tentative agreements on numerous issues, including increased guaranteed revenue to players, increased minimum salaries, reduction of contact during training camp, decreases in fines for on-field conduct and significant modifications to the drug policy. But the sides remain apart on other issues, including maximum revenue split, minimum cash spend requirements, the continuation (and ultimately increase of) the NFLPA Legacy fund that increased pensions for pre-1993 players, removing the escrow requirement/funding rule as a barrier to guaranteed contracts, rules on first-round picks and restricted free agents, and an NFL-proposed liability waiver.