Collective Bargaining Agreement

Pre-Week 1 CBA Deal No Longer Goal?

A three-day conference turned into a one-day summit this week, with the NFL and NFLPA’s latest round of CBA negotiations ending earlier today. The sides also may be moving their target date to have this process wrapped up.

While a new CBA being agreed to before Week 1 of this season seemed like an outlandish aspiration, given the contentious process that led to the 2011 lockout and the rivalry between the league and the union in the years since, that was a reported goal. It may no longer be. The NFL is not pushing for a new CBA to be hammered out before Week 1, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link).

Both sides obviously want a resolution earlier, to thus prevent a potential 2021 lockout, but neither seeks to rush into a deal, per Garafolo. The current CBA does not expire until after the 2020 season. The previous reported desire for the league to have this agreement done before the start of the 2019 campaign centered around not wanting CBA talks to overshadow the NFL’s 100th season. That may no longer be possible.

Wednesday marked the fourth formal negotiating session in this CBA discussion cycle, but the parties will reconvene July 29. John Mara, Art Rooney and Robert Kraft took part in these talks; NFLPA president Eric Winston, Richard Sherman and Russell Okung were among those on hand for the players’ side.

NFL, NFLPA End Bargaining Session Early

The NFL and NFLPA were set to meet from Wednesday through Friday, but the get-together is already over, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The plan, for now, is for the two sides to reconvene on July 29.

One source described the meetings as “productive,” though the decision to cap the scheduled three-day meeting after just one day is curious, to say the least. There’s a lot of issues to be hammered out, including the idea of an 18-game season. The union opposes the idea, even though the NFL would like to institute a 16-game limit for each individual player.

I don’t see an 18-game schedule — under any circumstance — being in the best interest of our players,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said. “If somebody wants to make an 18-game proposal, we’ll look at it. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that it would be good for the players.”

Of course, the union will also be after a larger share of the revenue, while owners are hoping that the players – in a roundabout way – will contribute money towards stadium projects and relocations.

DeMaurice Smith Talks 18-Game Schedule

The enduring subject of an 18-game schedule has resurfaced. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith confirmed a Wall Street Journal report (subscription required) indicating the NFL has broached the subject of an 18-game season, with 16-game limits per player, during the CBA talks.

As has been the case for years when this subject has emerged, the union is not on board with adding two more regular-season games.

I don’t see an 18-game schedule — under any circumstance — being in the best interest of our players,” Smith said, via ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe. “If somebody wants to make an 18-game proposal, we’ll look at it. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that it would be good for the players.”

The NFL has used a 16-game schedule since 1978. It moved from 12 to 14 in 1961. Packers president Mark Murphy (via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio) floated the idea of a 17-game compromise, with teams having eight home games, eight road games and one neutral-site contest — which would be a gateway to more international games. The Packers president, however, is not in favor of a 17- or 18-game schedule that limits players’ participation to 16 dates, calling it “gimmicky.”

Murphy added that he would not rule out the prospect of two byes, which the league tried in 1993, and a revised schedule moving the Super Bowl to President’s Day weekend — which Florio adds the NFL has long supported. All of this would be contingent on the preseason being slashed by at least one game.

Potential issues with salaries, roster construction, additional work commitments and players’ pensions could arise with the 18/16 format, not to mention certain fan dissatisfaction for when top players must sit out certain games.

Why is it our job to figure out how to make 18 games work as players? You tell someone you’re going to work longer and you figure out how to make it work? That doesn’t work,” Smith said. “It’s not our job to put that square peg in the round hole.

If a coal miner is willing to spend more time in the hole, does it likely result in more money? Yeah. Is that a good thing for him as a person? Probably not. That’s the question nobody confronts. It’s easy to say it’s more money. But is it good for us? The answer is no.”

The NFL and NFLPA will reconvene from July 17-19 on their latest round of talks. Smith characterized the talks as “positive” but would not provide a timeline on their prospective conclusion. The sides want to reach an agreement before this season begins. This would come after years of Smith warning his workforce to save money in the likely event of a 2021 lockout.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On CBA Discussions, Jerry Jones’ Involvement

There is plenty of reason for optimism right now with respect to a new collective bargaining agreement, and we even heard today that the league and the union hope to have a new agreement hammered out before the 2019 regular season gets underway. While that is far from a certainty at this point, it’s at least encouraging that the two sides are actively trying to avoid a work stoppage like the one we saw in 2011.

One of the key figures in this round of negotiations is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Jones has taken a more visible and vocal role this time around after watching Patriots owner Robert Kraft take charge back in 2011. Jones reportedly wants a large share of the credit for getting the next deal done, though it’s unclear whether his involvement will facilitate matters or throw a wrench into the works.

Indeed, Florio reports that, at a recent bargaining session, Jones and Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander had a “spirited discussion” about player health and safety that created some friction. And Jones’ very public campaign against commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017 could be a source of tension, though Florio says the two men have largely reconciled.

One of the issues that Jones, his fellow owners, and the NFLPA will have to resolve is stadium credits. Albert Breer of TheMMQB (Twitter link) notes that media deals will also be a major topic of conversation — the league’s current broadcast deals expire in 2023, and the emergence of streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix will greatly complicate matters — and the revenue split between owners and players will be revisited.

Florio suggests that a new CBA is not likely to be agreed upon by the start of the season, and Breer likewise hears that the meetings that have taken place so far have been to identify issues, not necessarily to resolve them. Perhaps more substantive work will get done at the bargaining sessions that are currently scheduled for July 17-19.

Florio does indicate that Goodell is hoping to parlay the new CBA into a new round of media deals and then retire not long thereafter. The CBA and the network deals could be done, if not by the start of the season, then at least before the Super Bowl in February.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL, NFLPA Hope To Sign New CBA Soon

We might not be headed towards a labor stoppage after all. Talks between the NFL and the NFLPA are set to pick up this month with an eye towards hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement before the 2019 season gets underway, a source tells ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano.

[RELATED: Could Players Have Say In Team Relocations?]

The two sides have scheduled negotiating sessions for July 17-19, marking the first time the two parties will engage in talks for three straight days. As it stands, the current CBA expires after the 2020 season, but everyone involved is taking a proactive approach to get something done well in advance.

It’s all rather promising – owners locked out players in 2011, which led to a last-minute agreement and shortened training camps. There’s optimism on both sides of the table, Graziano hears, though nothing is certain.

It would behoove both sides to get something done before March 2020. Without a new deal in place, next offseason will include new contract and salary-cap rules specific to the final year of the CBA, which means no June 1 release designations and the ability of teams to use both the franchise and transition tags to keep players off the free agent market.

Latest On NFL, NFLPA Talks

At least three rounds of Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions have been held, Mike Florio of PFT hears. One of the key issues being discussed is the handling of “stadium credits” – the NFL wants to push a significant amount of the money that currently is shared between owners and players to stadium construction and renovation projects.

The NFLPA, meanwhile, might not be so willing to do that. The player’s union doesn’t necessarily want to pay for the league’s stadiums and it’s not clear what they would receive in return. Furthermore, the union would likely insist on input in key decisions as they relate to stadiums or even team relocation. For example, in this scenario, Florio wonders if the union could have hypothetically blocked the Rams from moving to Los Angeles when there was a path to success available in St. Louis.

If the player’s union does get involved in the business of stadiums and gains power in terms of team relocation, it could have a direct impact on the future of the Bills in Buffalo. With a seat at the table, players may lean more towards moving teams when it means an increase in overall revenue and, by extension, more money towards the salary cap.

 

Latest On NFL CBA Talks, Gambling

More steam is building toward a future without another NFL lockout. After a report indicating the league is increasingly motivated to finalize a new collective bargaining agreement by September to avoid the prospect oc contentious talks hanging over its 100th season, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes both sides are motivated on this front.

Part of this motivation stems from the revenue streams that legalized gambling can create, with La Canfora adding many owners are eager to see what an increased relationship with gambling can do for the league. A 2018 Supreme Court ruling opened the door to states making inroads on the gambling front, and state legislatures across the country are acting accordingly.

While a gambling component infiltrating the league could be years away, JLC adds this is being seen as a “billion-dollar” game-changer that could see future salary caps spike. The cap has gone up by approximately $10MM for most of this decade, but the new CBA — which will coincide with new television agreements and, potentially, an increased relationship with sports betting — could change that for the better.

Another sign the NFL and NFLPA are making strides: key members of both parties met recently in Chicago to discuss the CBA, Albert Breer of SI.com reports. This June 12 gathering was the third CBA-related meeting of this cycle, Breer adds, noting Roger Goodell, union chief DeMaurice Smith and select players and owners were in attendance. The other meetings occurred on April 9 and May 8, in Minneapolis and New York, respectively. A July meeting is tentatively scheduled.

Additionally, the NFLPA’s executive committee stayed in Chicago for a June 13 strategy session, per Breer. The current agreement does not expire until March 2021. The fact that the sides are meeting regularly this early points to, despite the frequent acrimony between the league and the union, a greater chance the NFL avoids the work stoppage that defined 2011.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Pushing For New CBA By September?

The pendulum regarding CBA momentum continues to swing between optimism and pessimism. Thursday brought more specifics into the equation.

Although the current CBA does not expire until after the 2020 season, the NFL wants to have a new agreement in place within three months. The league would prefer to not have the cloud of potentially contentious CBA talks hanging over its 100th season, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports.

Perhaps more important to the league’s goals on this front: new television contracts. The NFL Sunday Ticket package expires after this season, Monday Night Football after 2021 and the rest of the broadcast deals following the 2022 slate. The NFL would prefer to have labor peace before renegotiating those contracts, Florio adds.

This report comes barely a week after NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith further stressed the importance of players saving money to prepare for a 2021 work stoppage. Said work stoppage has been rumored for years. Considering how tense matters often are between the league and the union, the 2011 lockout obviously the chief recent example, it will be hard to believe the sides will be able to hammer out a new agreement by September.

Discussions have begun, but with the true deadline many months away, it would be quite the achievement for the parties to unveil a new CBA before the start of this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFLPA Bracing For Work Stoppage

This week, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith urged all agents to advise their clients to save money in the event of a labor stoppage in 2021, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Daily (on Twitter). 

With a possible work stoppage less than two years away, this is the opportune time to set up a structured and organized savings and budgeting plan with your clients,” Smith wrote in the email. “I can’t stress enough the importance of having our player members in a sound financial situation should a work stoppage occur. We are advising players to plan for a work stoppage of at least a year in length. We are also encouraging all players to save 50% of their salary and bonuses and to save the entirety of their Performance Based Pay amounts they should earn over the next two regular seasons.

This is the first time that the union has ever made such an appeal via agents, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com hears, though an NFLPA source says Smith has communicated similar messages in public speeches and direct conversations with players. Furthermore, the union does not want the letter to be taken as a sign that CBA talks are going poorly. As another source put it, the letter is part of the union’s “ongoing message to negotiate for the best but prepare for the worst.”

As Graziano notes, Smith has had a rocky relationship with agents and some have smashed the union chief for his perceived lack of results in the last round of talks.

NFL, NFLPA Discuss New CBA

As promised, the NFL and the NFLPA met today to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement. After the meeting, the two sides released the following joint statement:

“Today, the members of the NFL’s Management Council and the NFLPA’s Executive Committee met to discuss negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The League and the Union have committed to meet regularly in the coming months, which will involve staff, NFL leadership, members of the NFLPA Executive Committee and Player Representatives.”

The current CBA expires after the 2020 season, and the league and union hope that by beginning talks now and continuing to meet regularly, they can avoid a lockout like the one that shut down operations in 2011. The union has consistently advised players to prepare for a lockout after 2020, but there is at least cause for optimism at this point.

Some of the players’ goals for the new CBA include increasing their overall revenue from the 47 percent threshold that was established by the 2011 agreement, bringing more guaranteed money into contracts, addressing the length of time it takes to become a free agent, and potentially updating the drug policy.

The current CBA will reportedly not be extended, and will be replaced by a new agreement.