DeMaurice Smith

Matt Schaub On NFLPA Executive Director Aspirations

With NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith set to transition away from his position as early as March 2023, the union’s search for his replacement is underway. The most prominent name to emerge as his potential successor is Matt Schaub

The longtime Falcons and Texans quarterback is in his second year of retirement, and has been public about his intention of leading the player’s union. He expounded on his candidacy and top priorities in the event he lands the job in an interview with Pro Football Network.

“After playing for 17 years and being a part of the union for 19 years and seeing the impact the union has on players’ lives, both while in the game and once they retire, the physical toll, the mental toll, the emotional toll and how the financial side of the game impacts everyone from the top of the rosters to the bottom,” he said, “it has opened my eyes to want to advocate and help and lead the union to a place that all players need to be in, especially physically as they move beyond the game.”

To no surprise given those remarks, the 41-year-old doubled down on long-term health care as his chief concern, naming lifelong coverage as a target. He also referenced the compensation levels for end-of-the-roster players, along with the split of league revenues between the league and players (central issues in the last round of CBA negotiations) as focal points in upcoming agreements.

In addition to Schaub, other contenders for the position could include NFLPA president J.C. Tretter and senior director of player affairs Don Davis. They, too, have a background as NFL players, something which Smith does not. In Tretter’s case, his status in the union was widely seen as a key factor in his release from the Browns this offseason, and the lack of free agent interest which led to his retirement. Davis, meanwhile, spent more than a decade in the league and has played a leading role in a number of union events under his current title.

NFLPA Beginning Search For DeMaurice Smith Successor

The NFLPA has had stability at the top for over a decade, but it will have a new leader in the relatively near future. Executive director DeMaurice Smith is currently in his final term, and the union is beginning the search process for his successor. 

Smith, 58, was re-elected last October. The vote which extended his stay came in the wake of the latest CBA negotiations, which saw a notable split amongst the players. Smith received the minimum 22 votes required to retain his position, but his final term is expected to be brief.

The NFLPA’s executive director since 2009, Smith will be replaced by no later than 2025, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. He adds, however, that Smith’s transition to a consulting role will more likely take place along a quicker timeline than that. The union’s search for his successor has just begun, with a vote being possible to take place as early as March 2023.

To date, only one candidate has emerged: former Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Schaub. The 41-year-old’s playing career ended after the 2020 season, the final year of his second stint with the Falcons. Schaub – who also spent seven seasons as the Texans’ starter – has been a vocal critic of the two most recent CBAs, and their impact on players.

“It is unprecedented what we’ve done the last two CBAs, with the tenure of the deals, which is almost triple the average career length of most players,” he said recently, via Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required). “These past two, it’s been too long based on what has shifted hands and shifted across the table.”

The most recent CBA was marked by a widespread increase in player compensation, particularly at the low end of the pay grade, in exchange for the regular season being expended to 17 games. New TV deals in particular have, on the other hand, led to major spikes in franchise values, as demonstrated most recently by the record-shattering sale of the Broncos this summer.

To find a successor, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter, along with the 10 other members of the union’s executive committee and three most senior player representatives will compile a list of two to four candidates. A general vote amongst all player reps will determine Smith’s replacement. With the current CBA set to run through March 2031, though, there does not need to be much urgency in the search process.

NFLPA To Retain DeMaurice Smith

DeMaurice Smith‘s job is safe. This week, Smith got the two-thirds vote he needed from the NFLPA’s 32 player reps, keeping him on as the union’s executive director (Twitter link via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com). 

Per NFLPA bylaws, the union’s top officials get to vote on whether to extend the executive director’s contract. The first vote is cast by the smaller selection committee, which voted unanimously to extend Smith’s deal in 2017. This time around, the selection committee was split 7-7, leaving Smith’s future up to the player reps.

Smith has served as executive director since 2009, but the most recent round of CBA negotiations put him at odds with many players. But, even after agreeing to an additional regular season game in exchange for a larger share of revenue, the union has voted to move forward with Smith.

The current proposal contains increases across almost every category of wages, hours, working conditions and benefits for former and current players,” Smith said in March of 2020 after the CBA was approved (via the NY Post). “Like any contested negotiation … the proposal also reflects trades with the counterparty which have to be carefully weighed and assessed across the entirety of the deal. Please be confident that I hear — loudly and clearly — those of you who have passionately expressed their perspective that these gains are not enough when weighed against, for example, adding another game.”

That position reflects how some members have chosen to weigh what aspect of the deal is important to them. The fact is, however, that there are literally hundreds of issues in any [CBA] that affect thousands of circumstances and impact thousands of current and former players which we must consider carefully.”

The current CBA will run through 2030. Smith’s new contract is expected to keep him in place through 2023.

NFLPA To Vote On DeMaurice Smith’s Future 

DeMaurice Smith‘s time as NFLPA executive director could be coming to a close. On Friday, the union’s 32 player reps will hold a vote on Smith’s future, as Mark Maske of the Washington Post writes. 

If Smith doesn’t win two-thirds of the vote, the NFLPA will conduct an open search for his position. The union’s bylaws require the union to identify 2-4 candidates for the job, though could conceivably be among those considered. If Smith does win two-thirds of the vote, he’ll remain under a new contract.

Smith has held the position since 2009 and he’s been reelected twice (2012; 2015). And, in 2017, the selection committee voted unanimously to extend his contract for another four years. This time around, the selection committee was split, leaving Smith’s future up to the player reps.

Clearly, Smith’s showing in the last round of CBA talks didn’t sit well with everyone. The players’ union secured a larger revenue share, but they also agreed to give the NFL an extra regular season game. Aaron Rodgers, Richard Sherman, and others were vocally opposed. If Smith’s job becomes available, Mike Florio of PFT suggests that former Colts first-round pick and current congressional representative Anthony Gonzalez could seek election.

NFLPA Exec Bashes Bills GM For Vaccine Comments

Back in May, Bills GM Brandon Beane said that he would release players who refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Soon after, the league office got in touch with Beane to let him know that teams cannot cut players solely for that reason. Now, NFLPA chief exec DeMaurice Smith has weighed in with his thoughts. 

[RELATED: NFL Says Teams Can’t Cut Players For Refusing Vaccine]

When a general manager speaks out and says something that is not only inconsistent with league policy, but just has a rank disregard for the rights of our players, I don’t know any other way of characterizing that other than just the stupidity that underlines it,” Smith said (via Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.)

Given the NFL’s clarification, Smith probably doesn’t have much to worry about on this front. Still, his comments show that the players’ union will be keeping a watchful eye on the waiver wire for any questionable cuts.

Beane’s comments raise a number of questions about a player’s personal right to say no to the vaccine. Beyond that, one has to wonder how the NFL would handle this type of situation in practice. What happens if a team cuts someone for refusing the vaccine while citing their performance as the reason for the release? In that case, the union would face an uphill battle.

NFLPA To Discuss 2021 Opt-Outs

Last year, dozens of NFL players opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith says he’ll push to extend that option into 2021 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). 

A number of NFL locker rooms have already decided against onsite offseason workouts. That’s an indication that some players may choose to stay home this year, should the coronavirus bring new variants to the states. Of course, with vaccines having been widely administered, players are more comfortable with the idea of traveling than they were in 2020.

Chiefs guard and medical school graduate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was the first player to officially opt out last summer. Scores of players followed, though most said they struggled with the decision, which was complicated by lengthy negotiations over compensation and free agency rights. This time around, Smith is hoping to solidify the terms well in advance to make things easier for players.

Meanwhile, NFLPA president and Browns center J.C. Tretter reiterated the union’s position that every player should boycott voluntary OTAs.

This is not a 2021 offseason issue. This will be an issue year after year,” Tretter said.

NFLPA Encourages Agent Collusion

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith urged agents for free agents at the same position to collude and increase leverage in a virtual meeting this week (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Smith anticipates that teams will try to cut players and dollars with the salary cap decreasing. With a bit of teamwork, Smith hopes to lessen the impact. 

The cap floor has been set at $180MM, once thought to be the potential cap ceiling. Still, the maximum is expected to be less than the $198.2MM limit from 2020. From this point forward, the cap will be largely dictated by the outcome of the league’s TV negotiations. Interestingly, Smith indicated that the cap for future seasons could still be impacted.

At the corporate level, collusion is an illegal practice. However, workers are free to collude, and use the term freely. Agents will occasionally work together to inform negotiations, but competition between player representatives sometimes gets in the way. In this unusual year, Smith wants players to be on the same page in order to get the largest deals possible.

The cap figure may fall somewhere between $182-$183MM, slightly above the agreed upon floor. It’s unlikely that the number will reach $185MM. No matter where it lands, the league will record its first salary cap decrease in over a decade.

De Smith, J.C. Tretter On COVID-19 Latest

Union chief DeMaurice Smith and president J.C. Tretter held a conference call with media members today, during which they discussed various COVID-19 issues.

Starting on the financial side of things, Smith told reporters that the salary cap could decrease by as much as $70MM in 2021, unless the union and league come up with a solution to spread out that damage over several years (Twitter link via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com). Obviously, the union would prefer the latter option, and it has summarily rejected the NFL’s most recent economic proposals. Smith said he does not want players to bear the brunt of the financial burden when they are also the ones exposing themselves to the virus (Twitter link via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area).

Of course, the league has made the decision to start training camp on time, and Smith concedes that the union has no ability to fight that. Instead, the NFLPA’s objective is to ensure that the players are as safe as possible (Twitter link via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times). To that end, the union has been in touch with team doctors, who have said, with a couple of reservations, that it is safe to open camp as planned (Twitter link via Condotta).

Indeed, a source familiar with talks between the NFL and NFLPA told Mark Maske of the Washington Post that those discussions were moving in the right direction and that there was reason to believe training camp could start on time (Twitter link). As Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets, the Chiefs are telling players that camp is a go, with rookies and QBs to report for COVID-19 testing on Monday, July 20, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter) says Texans players were told the same (the Texans and Chiefs play each other in the regular season opener). The full team is scheduled to report on July 25, and Pelissero adds in a separate tweet that multiple clubs have been sending tentative reporting dates to players.

Needless to say, there is plenty that still needs to be resolved. For instance, Texans star J.J. Watt, who has been involved in player calls, said yesterday (via Twitter) that players had yet to receive a single valid Infectious Disease Emergency Response (IDER) plan, and as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, players aren’t supposed to report to camp until IDER plans have been approved. Per Graziano, “some teams” began sending to those plans to the union last night, which the union will need to review to ensure that they are in compliance with the negotiated protocols (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, Tretter says that the union has consulted with team doctors in hotspot markets to discuss how to report to camp safely (Twitter link via Graziano). It’s unclear what, if any, additional protocols will be put in place for such regions, and Tretter also brought up another point that has largely been overlooked (via Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk). He said, as a center, he is in close contact with every player in the offensive huddle and every defensive lineman during practice. If he tests positive, how would the league determine how many people to quarantine, and for how long?

That is one critical unanswered question, and Smith conceded there is no firm answer as to how many positive tests it would take to force an entire team to shut down. He did emphasize that the union continues to push for daily testing, which the league is still opposing.

Smith also said he is unaware of any players who have elected to opt out of the 2020 season (Twitter link via Condotta). We covered the most recent updates on the opt-out situation earlier this week.

DeMaurice Smith On Likelihood Of 2020 Season

As a result of gradual reopening measures being instituted across the country, green lights for teams in some states to resume play, and a recent statement from the NFL indicating that the league is planning on a full season in front of full stadiums, football fans have been getting their hopes up over the past few days. But in order to continue moving forward, the league obviously needs cooperation from its players, and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is still uncertain as to whether there will be a 2020 season.

In a recent episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (via Mike Florio of PFT), Smith was asked if he believes games will be played in 2020. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being “absolutely certain,” Smith said, “I’m gonna go with a, you know, probably a six, seven.”

“But, you know, look, a lot depends on what happens with the other sports,” Smith continued. “And to say that we aren’t looking at what’s going to be happening in basketball and baseball — and we’re not looking at how they work through these things, we would — I’d be lying to you if we’re not. So how about if I go with six, seven on a curve?”

Smith, just like union president J.C. Tretter, is perhaps pushing back a bit to remind everyone that the union needs to be involved in the decision-making, particularly if there are going to be major logistical or financial adjustments to the standard operating procedures. Obviously, we are still nearly two months away from the start of training camp and over three months away from the start of the regular season, so there is plenty of time for the league and the NFLPA to come up with an agreed-upon course of action.

There was a report yesterday suggesting that the league could hold minicamps at the end of June, which Tretter subsequently refuted. And indeed, coaches from multiple teams tell Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that their staffs aren’t returning to team facilities until training camp (Twitter link). Even if the league and union were to authorize in-person work earlier than that, some teams would not take advantage of that opportunity and would continue to conduct matters virtually.

But if teams are able to hold training camp more or less as normal, then Week 1 can get underway just as it otherwise would. And to that end, Albert Breer of SI.com says the NFL and NFLPA joint committee on health safety are continuing to discuss various solutions (Twitter links). One proposal would see some players back in team facilities by the end of June to test protocols, followed by two to three weeks of strength and conditioning. Then, when training camp begins, helmeted practices can get underway.

Meanwhile, NFL engineers and sports equipment company Oakley are testing prototypes of facemasks that contain surgical or N95 material, per a recent report from ESPN. NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer said the new designs could feasibly cover a player’s entire facemask, and while such a design would not be a complete safeguard against the transmission of the coronavirus, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

No Vote On CBA Would Stifle 2020 Spending

While there are legitimate reasons for the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to reject the NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in pursuit of a better deal, a no vote would severely dampen this offseason’s free agency spending, according to a report by Mike Florio of ProFootball Talk.

Sources tell Florio that the NFLPA estimates rejecting the deal would stunt offseason spending roughly $600MM-$700MM. Since an affirmative vote on the CBA would result in an increase in the player’s portion of revenues, thus causing a relatively large spike in the salary cap over the coming years. While it would not have any immediate effects, teams would be more willing to spend now with the knowledge they would get cap relief soon.

It is worth noting, however, that the union itself seems invested in the deal’s approval since NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith has come out in favor of the deal. Thus, the NFLPA may be releasing news and notes in an attempt to sway undecided players before they vote on March 12th.