Collective Bargaining Agreement

Latest On NFL’s CBA Talks

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.

Extra Points: CBA, Seahawks, Lions

Earlier today, union leader DeMaurice Smith reported that the owners and players have struck a tentative agreement on the players’ guaranteed portion of revenues, increases in minimum salaries, changes to the offseason, and a reduction in training-camp contact. The league was quick to throw water on that report, as a memo to teams noted that the two sides still had to tackle a number of issues (via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter).

“A number of important issues remain to be resolved and we remain committed to the bargaining positions reviewed with you at the December meeting,” the memo said. “We believe that the most constructive approach is not to negotiate publicly but to continue the discussions directly and privately with the union, with the active involvement of CEC members and the supervision of the full committee.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Seahawks defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson suffered a standard Jones fracture during last Sunday’s loss to the Packers (via Pelissero on Twitter). Jefferson will undergo surgery, and the eight-week recovery time should have him healthy right before free agency begins. The 26-year-old had another productive season in Seattle, compiling 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 14 games (12 starts).
  • The Lions have a number of players who are set to hit free agency, and Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press takes some guesses at who will stay and who will go. The writer believes that wideout Danny Amendola, safety Tavon Wilson, and safety/special teamer Miles Killebrew will ultimately stick around, while defensive tackle Mike Daniels, punter Sam Martin, and cornerback Rashaan Melvin are projected to bolt.
  • Dolphins quality control coach Matt Lombardi will be taking a promotion with the Panthers, reports Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter). Lombardi was hired last winter and spent one season in the role. We learned earlier this evening that the Panthers had also poached Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair.
  • The Bears officially announced a number of previously-reported coaching moves this evening: the hiring of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, the hiring of John DeFilippo as QBs coach, and the promotion of Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator. The team also announced a handful of additional promotions, including Brian Ginn as assistant special teams coach, Chris Jackson as assistant wide receivers coach, and Shane Toub as defensive quality control coach (via The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain on Twitter).

Latest On NFL Labor Talks

The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement expires in March 2021, which means that a labor stoppage could be on the horizon. The owners and players have been talking for months about a new deal and the latest update brings reason for optimism. 

In an NFLPA memo to players, union leader DeMaurice Smith reported that the two sides have struck tentative agreement on the players’ guaranteed portion of revenues, increases in minimum salaries, changes to the offseason, and a reduction in training-camp contact. The owners have also tipped that they’ll agree to “significant modifications” in the league’s drug and disciplinary policies, according to Smith (Twitter link via Mark Maske of The Washington Post).

Of course, in order to get all of that, the union will have to make concessions. Smith confirmed that the talks have been proceeding based on a potential 17-game season with expanded playoffs. To help offset the extra game(s), the two sides are mulling a reduced preseason.

Everything sounds like it’s trending in the right direction for a new CBA, but nothing is final until everything is signed, and we’re likely a long way from that. There’s also this to consider – Russell Okung, who is open to a stoppage and strongly opposed to a 17-game season, is expected to challenge Eric Winston for the union president position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Okung, Trubisky, Bucs

Chargers left tackle Russell Okung intends to run for NFLPA president, sources tell Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. This development is notable because, while CBA negotiations between the owners and the union have been progressing smoothly thus far, Okung is said to be vehemently opposed to a 17-game schedule and is open to a work stoppage in order to get the best possible deal for the league’s players.

The 17-game schedule may be the last major sticking point holding up a new CBA, but if a new agreement is not in place by the time current union president Eric Winston’s term expires in March, and if Okung were to be elected, negotiations could stall. Winston cannot be re-elected because he hasn’t played for the past two seasons.

A recent NFLPA investigation revealed that Okung gathered and disseminated confidential information in violation of the union’s constitutions and by-laws, but Okung denies those allegations.

Now for more news and notes from around the league:

  • On Monday, the Fritz Pollard Alliance issued what Florio calls the strongest statement it has made since the Rooney Rule was promulgated. The statement reads in part, “[w]e were painfully reminded through this past hiring cycle that attaining diverse leadership in the NFL can only happen through the willful actions of the team owners and decision makers. The abysmal record of hiring people of color in high ranking levels of NFL management is a reminder of the dark periods of civil rights history. The League has only one African-American General Manager. There are no African-American club presidents.” The Redskins hired a minority when they tabbed Ron Rivera as their new head coach, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance believes worthy minority candidates like Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy continue to get overlooked.
  • Mike Sando of The Athletic takes a look into the upcoming fifth-year option decisions that teams will have to make on their 2017 first-rounders. The entire piece is worth a read, and it’s notable that most of Sando’s sources believe the Bears will exercise the $25MM option on QB Mitchell Trubisky.
  • The Buccaneers worked out cornerback Tre Roberson, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Roberson, who played quarterback in college and who was last with an NFL team in September 2017, recorded seven interceptions for the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders this year. Recent reports suggested that Roberson would be back in the NFL in 2020 and that over 10 teams were interested in the converted signal-caller.

17-Game Schedule Holding Up CBA?

Introduced during these collective bargaining agreement discussions, the 17-game schedule has become one of the central components of the negotiations. It appears the talks are progressing, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (on Twitter) the revised schedule is likely to be part of the next CBA.

However, were the 17-game schedule not included in these discussions, Florio adds it is believed the league and the NFLPA would have a deal by now (Twitter link). It could then be inferred the parties have agreed to a revenue split figure, which would be a critical barrier cleared.

The owners, who recently proposed a new revenue-split figure, are confident the extra game will be added to schedules. While the 17-game season would not necessarily become a reality in the CBA’s first year, it can be assumed that would be an early-2020s change.

The prospect of a 17-game season surfaced in late September, and we’ve steadily learned what this would mean for the league. Having used a 16-game schedule for 42 years, the NFL moved off its 18-game pursuit during these talks and is attempting to structure a 19-week season (two byes) with a Super Bowl that moves into late February. Each team’s extra game would come at neutral sites, both domestic and international, with the preseason being shortened.

A longer season obviously isn’t an especially popular proposition for the players, though the extra bye week and the NFL’s (known) concessions on marijuana and Roger Goodell‘s disciplinary powers would seemingly help. As would greater cap spikes generated by additional revenue. But it remains to be seen what effect an extra game would have on contracts.

Owners Confident CBA Will Include 17-Game Season?

The owners and the NFLPA are making “incremental” progress toward finalizing a collective bargaining agreement, and Mark Maske of the Washington Post notes the goal of the process being finalized by Super Bowl LIV remains attainable.

While the revenue split continues to be the central issue, the prospect of a 17-game season persists. Owners appear “increasingly convinced” the 17-game schedule will be included in the next CBA, Maske adds. However, the addition of a game to the schedule would not have to take effect in the first year of the new agreement.

This topic has been on the table for months, and the owners have shown willingness to bend on Roger Goodell‘s disciplinary power and the issue of marijuana to make it happen. The sides indeed are continuing to discuss marijuana testing, per Maske.

A 17-game schedule becoming reality would alter the NFL calendar, with the preseason being reduced and the playoffs stretching well into February. A return to the double-bye setup — only used once, in 1993 — is believed to be attached to the 17-game proposal. That would mean a 19-week regular season. The NFL has used the 16-game schedule for 42 seasons — far longer than the 12- or 14-game formats lasted.

The prospect of the playoffs expanding from 12 to 14 teams remains a possibility, with Maske noting some owners believe the field will expand by two teams at some point during the next CBA. So it appears the sides may be setting up gradual shifts in the schedule and playoff bracket structure for the 2020s.

Latest On CBA Negotiations

Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement resumed a few weeks ago, and the NFL is believed to have upped its offer in a key area. The league offered the players an increased revenue split, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

The latest NFL proposal includes a figure closer to 48% revenue share for the players’ side, according to Anderson. Players are currently guaranteed at least 47% of league revenue. The owners would collect 51.5%, with Anderson adding 1.5% would go to stadium credits. The revenue split has been a central component of these CBA discussions; the sides were far apart on this deal point during their July talks. The players are pursuing a 50-50 split.

The current CBA has between 47-48.5% going to the players. From 2012-14, the labor force took back 47-48% of the pie, with the higher-end figure increasing to 48.5% from 2015-20. It’s unclear if Anderson’s report indicates the players’ revenue floor will move toward roughly 48%, though that would be the logical progression. The players received a 51% revenue split in the previous CBA, but the cap has ballooned by greater percentages during the life of the current 10-year agreement and is expected to approach or surpass $200MM in 2020.

The league has injected the prospect of a 17-game season into the negotiations and was reportedly ready to bend on key issues like marijuana and the personal conduct policy to entice the players on this front. A revenue-split concession may be another sign the owners are serious about increasing the schedule by a game.

Additionally, the status of NFLPA president Eric Winston may be a key point in these winter talks. The NFLPA will vote to either re-elect Winston or name a new chief at end of the league year in March, and Anderson tweets the NFL’s familiarity with the current leader may explain the increased activity toward getting a deal done before March rather than potentially starting over in talks with a new chief. Winston has served as NFLPA president since 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: CBA, Marijuana, Draft

While CBA negotiations have been on the January schedule for a while, the NFL and NFLPA have already resumed talks. The sides convened for negotiations last week, Judy Battista of NFL.com reports (on Twitter), adding the goal remains to have a new agreement finalized by season’s end. The NFL initially sought to have this done before Week 1, an unrealistic scenario since the current CBA does not expire until March 2021, and has since inserted a 17-game season into the talks.

Roger Goodell said he and the owners discussed the CBA for roughly an hour at this week’s league meetings, but the 13th-year commissioner is uncertain how far apart the owners and players are. Should a deal not be completed by March, new elections of an NFLPA president and new members on the union’s executive committee could change the tenor of the months-long negotiations, per Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Shortly after Major League Baseball announced marijuana will not be on its banned substances list, Jerry Jones said the NFL will likely further amend its policy, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets. The league has already shown leniency on this front, years ago raising the threshold for what results in a marijuana-based suspension. Owners are reportedly ready to make marijuana a bargaining chip in exchange for the players’ side agreeing to an extra regular-season game. Jones has said in the past he’s in favor of marijuana not residing on the NFL’s banned substances list.
  • Two running backs will skip their final collegiate seasons to enter the draft. Boston College’s A.J. Dillon and Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill announced they will enter the 2020 draft pool. At 250 pounds and with 13 career receptions, Dillon profiles as an old-school back. Boston College’s all-time leading rusher gained 4,382 yards (5.2 per carry) and, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, is expected to time in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash. The 215-pound Hill did not fare nearly as well in college but will enter the draft on the heels of his lone 1,000-yard season — a 1,347-yard, 10-touchdown slate — and do so with only 430 college carries under his belt. Hill will play in the Bulldogs’ bowl game; Dillon will skip the Eagles’ postseason tilt.
  • Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson will join the backs in declaring early, Tony Pauline of the Pro Football Network tweets. An All-American this season, Robertson intercepted five passes and ranked second in passes defensed with 21.

NFL Projects ~$200MM Salary Cap For 2020

NFL revenue continues to rise and, in turn, the salary cap continues to climb. On Tuesday, the league office informed club officials that the salary cap is projected fall somewhere between $196.8MM and $201.2MM in 2020 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). This year, the cap is at $188.2MM, so that marks a significant jump in potential pay for players league-wide.

The expected increase marks a ~40% jump from five years ago in the 2015 season, when the cap was set at $143.3MM. It’s the seventh straight year in which cap is projected to climb more than $10MM per team, year over year. Since 2011, the cap has increased roughly 65 percent and $76 million per club.

The final cap number will likely set by the NFL and NFLPA in late February or early March, just before free agency gets underway. What we know is this – projected player costs, including benefits, will total more than $7.7 billion in 2020.

The NFLPA is undoubtedly happy about the jump, but the players’ union is expected to seek a larger share of the pie in the next collective bargaining agreement. The 2020 season marks the final year of the current labor contract.

For many teams, the cap increase will provide a bit of extra breathing room for the offseason. However, six clubs will still have to trim payroll between now and the new league year, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The Jaguars ($208MM), Falcons ($206MM), Bears ($205MM), Vikings ($203MM), Saints ($202MM), and Chiefs ($201MM) are all past the $200M mark for 2020, as of this writing.

Latest On NFL’s Push For 17-Game Season

Over the past two months, the prospect of a 17-game season has gained steam. While the NFL has ditched the concept of an 18-game season, a longtime fringe talking point, the league is serious about adding one game to the schedule.

The NFL plans on presenting its revised CBA proposal to the NFLPA after this season, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports “momentum is growing” among owners to make this happen. Additionally, some within the NFLPA may be warming to it as well.

The most notable part of this push: a radical adjustment to the NFL’s calendar. The league’s new plan still features the season beginning after Labor Day, but the fall schedule would grow from 17 weeks to 19. The double-bye structure (used only once, in 1993) was not previously mentioned in these talks, but the 17-game plan now includes it. The playoffs would be pushed well into February, with La Canfora adding the new schedule would slide Super Bowl Sunday into the final weekend of February.

Each team’s extra game would be an out-of-market event, with the league wanting to push its United Kingdom schedule to eight games. The Jaguars would be featured in two of those London tilts, per La Canfora, who adds other international locales like Mexico, Germany and Brazil are on the table. Roger Goodell has indicated strong support for the eight-game London slate, JLC adds. This would seemingly represent an expanded trial balloon for a full-fledged London team. More domestic sites would also be included in a 17-game season. Support has surfaced for holding games at Notre Dame, in Alabama and potentially in Canada and Hawaii.

A 14-team playoff bracket has been rumored as well, though it is not included in this report. The NFLPA has voiced opposition to an expanded postseason field. The preseason would be condensed into a two-game slate, but La Canfora reports, though the notion of intersquad scrimmages held at stadiums has come up.

With the NFL having used a 16-game schedule for the past 42 seasons, featuring home sites almost exclusively, this proposal becoming reality would be one of the most significant changes in league history. It would also mean pushing the Combine back, with free agency’s start date presumably being slid further into March as well.

The NFL is willing to bend on some issues — like marijuana and Goodell’s power over investigations — to make this happen. The next window for the CBA to be finalized looks like the days around Super Bowl LIV, with La Canfora adding negotiations are scheduled to take place throughout January.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.