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Preliminary Thoughts On The Possible Proposed Changes To The CBA

Last evening, this cheat sheet by the NFLPA was released:

This sheet is crafted in quite the positive manner by the union, which gives off the impression that its leadership would like to convince the players to approve the new CBA. So keeping that in mind, let’s step through these bullet points.

Revenue split

The precise calculation of All Revenues (AR in the sheet) is something I plead some ignorance to, so keep that in mind as I opine. But as I understand it, the current share that goes to the players ranges between 47% and 48.5%. If the floor of that range is raised to 48%, then that’s a small but still significant gain for the players on the huge issue that the owners locked out the players on back in 2011. I remain skeptical about how much of an improvement this will be when the devilish mathematical details are released, but that the owners would even budge at all on this suggests that they’re serious about wanting to add that 17th game.

One intriguing point is ensuring that revenue generated from gambling, of which is quickly coming to the NFL, will be ensured to be in the AR figure. That could potentially be a massive influx of money to watch for in the coming years.

Salary increases

This looks to be the biggest win for the players, and it is crafted in a way to get a high quantity of players to bite on agreeing to the CBA. Jason Fitzgerald and Vijay Natarajan advocated significant raises to minimum salaries from the sclerotic $15,000 per year in the current CBA. This happens with a raise to $45,000 per year, plus raises near or above six figures in 2020 and 2021. Since the grand majority of players or on or at minimum salaries, such a raise should be attractive to them–not just to rookies but also low level vested veterans with purported increases to the minimum salary benefit and beyond.

One tactical error by the owners may be capping the addition of an extra game check to $250,000. While the number of players likely to be affected by that will be low, it may have hit a raw nerve in some of the league’s most stellar and respected figures, such as JJ Watt. This should not be a hill that the owners should be willing to die on.

Spending restrictions

The increase in the cash spending floors looks like a joke to me. Currently, it is at 89% over two 4 year periods. Now it’s at 90% over three 3-3-4 periods. That’s a far cry from what Jason and Vijay were advocating to force teams to spend more. What’s also a joke is the discussed adjustment to the guaranteed funding rule, which places future guaranteed salaries in escrow. This entire funding rule has always struck me as a silly one that should go away, but also silly enough that I don’t see it significantly nudging owners into fully guaranteeing more salaries. Nonetheless, the lack of such guarantees remains a sore point among players, so this mild increase may have been another tactical error by the owners if this proposed CBA does get shut down.

Performance and tender increases

The raises to RFA tenders strike me as minimal, as they have been increasing at least at that amount in recent years. From 2019 to 2020, the numbers were $258,000, $181,000, and $118,000. A one time practical doubling of these raises (as I understand it) is nice, but is not significantly moving the needle.

Fully guaranteeing exercised fifth year options (instead of only injury guaranteeing them) may not change things too much except on the margins, as usually it’s obvious whether or not the first round pick is going to have earned that amount after three years. (Though one of those marginal cases that may complicate the decision would be Garett Bolles, if the change is applied retroactively). Abolishing the different tiers of first rounders is nice, as is reportedly increasing the option amount to the franchise tag amount upon “player achievement”. However, this better not be decided upon a highly subjective measure like the Pro Bowl, as reported. Instead, this should be determined by objective measures like snap counts, yardage, or negative plays generated (on defense) or yielded (by offensive linemen).

On the other hand, including 2nd round picks in the PPE is something that was long overdue, as players selected in that round often got screwed by potentially getting paid less than 3rd rounders and below in their 4th year. (For the Broncos, again if this is applied retroactively, this is very good news for Courtland Sutton, Dalton Risner, and Drew Lock.) I’m also intrigued about what the “Super Escalator” will look like, and how much more that will pay proven players in their 4th season.

Practice restrictions

I have very little to say on this other than that the tried and true way to find peace in a battle between the owners and players is to throw the coaches under the bus. It’ll be interesting to see at some point whether the coaches start to say that enough is enough with the continued reductions.

Player benefits

I will plead full ignorance on the details here, and just generally say that any increase is good for the players, but whether or not it’s good enough is ultimately for them to decide.

Player rights

Speaking of people to throw under the bus, that includes everyone’s favorite NFL punching bag, Roger Goodell, by giving the commissioner full authority only on “integrity of the game” matters. Fines being reduced is also nice, if having minimal impact on financial matters. Finally, the already laughable cannabis policy would become more so, with the window for testing down to two weeks, and most importantly, eliminating suspensions for positive tests. We may never know whether any player does test positive, and that’s the way it should be. Of course, there should be zero testing and penalties at all for cannabis, but if the owners insist on keeping happy the increasingly small number of viewers who still think cannabis is the devil, at least they’ll be duping that set even greater.

The 17th game

This, of course, is the big elephant in the room. The owners want it, the players don’t want it, and the owners are trying to break down that resistance by mollifying players with other concessions–just as collective bargaining operates.

My opinion on a 17th game is, to use a Simpsonism, “meh”. On the one hand, I have no burning desire for it, and I have no need to take up another one of my weekends in watching football. But on the other hand, I would grow to accept and enjoy it if it became a reality.

But my opinion, to put it bluntly, means jack shit. It’s the opinion of the players that matter the most. If a majority of them think these other gains are a positive tradeoff, I’ll respect that decision. If they don’t, I’ll also respect that decision. Therefore, let’s await to see what decision they collectively make today.