The NFL’s labor battle drove a major wedge through the NFL Players Association.
Generally speaking, older, higher-priced players were against the proposed collective bargaining agreement, and younger, rank-and-file players were in favor of it. Both sides argued passionately for weeks proponents saying that it gives the players immediate raises and cost certainty during uncertain times, while opponents argued that the players didn’t get nearly enough for conceding on a 17th regular-season game.
The CBA ultimately passed a vote on Sunday morning, giving the NFL a new CBA that starts in 2020 and runs through the spring of 2031. But the vote reflected the significant divide among NFL players — a tally of 1,019 to 959, a margin of just 60 votes. Notably, about 500 players did not vote.
The new CBA will bring a few significant changes to the NFL:
Starting in either 2021 or 2022, the NFL will increase to 17 regular-season games. Starting in 2020, the playoffs will be expanded by one team (seven in each conference), which will add two extra games to Wild Card weekend.
Minimum-salary players will receive immediate pay increases of at least $90,000. This is a major reason why the CBA passed vote — approximately 60 percent of players receive a minimum salary and don’t have long-term job security. By 2029, every player in the league will be making at least $1 million. Interestingly, since 51.5 percent of players approved the CBA, a block of minimum-salary players voted against their own economic interests.
Teams will now have more players available on game day. The CBA allows teams to call up two players from the practice squad each week, increasing game-day rosters from 46 to 48 players. Practice squads will increase from 10 to 12 players immediately, and will increase to 14 players by 2022.
The threshold for qualifying for an NFL pension decreased from four accrued seasons to three.
Training camps and offseason workouts will be lighter, suspensions for failing drug tests or getting in trouble with marijuana will mostly be eliminated, and commissioner Roger Goodell will no longer hear cases involving player discipline (but he will, notably, serve as the judge on appeals). Fines for holdouts, however, will now be costlier, and mandatory.
But the players didn’t get any changes to the franchise tag system, nor the rookie wage system — two instruments that significantly depress player salaries. All drafted players will still be locked into their low-paying contracts for at least three seasons, if not four, which helps depress the free agency market.