By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
The clock is ticking and it is now down to approximately 24 days before the new league business calendar starts for the NFL on March 18th.
Why is that date significant, other than it being the start of the new league calendar? It’s the date the NFL owners have said that they will not continue negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the league’s players. At the moment things stand at a bit of a stand-still with the players split on the most recent CBA proposal, which made waves in the news last week.
Talk before this off-season was to expect a potential lockout seeing as the players lost big time in the last negotiations back in 2011. Surprisingly, in some ways (not so surprisingly in others), a new CBA seems likely to be put into place starting this year. Most motivation in getting a deal done stems from the fact that the next round of league TV contracts end in 2022 and such contracts tend to only get more lucrative for the NFL. Adding to the potential lucrative contract turnarounds is the real possibility that more streaming media will be interested in carrying the NFL than ever before in 2022.
Both the owners and players know a lot of revenue stands to be gained if there isn’t a work stoppage. Still, while a lot of time remains to negotiate a deal, time is ticking away as the current CBA is scheduled to expire after the 2020 season.
Here’s a look at a few of the big story lines involved with this deal getting done.
Owners Want Revenue – In the proposed deal agreed upon by the owners, its clear that they have intense motivation to earn more money. The best way to get more money is by adding games.
Many would argue the NFL has the best regular season and playoffs of all the professional sports. Every other league is trying to grow but the overall efforts are all an attempt to be No. 2 in America. Football is so clearly the most popular sport and it doesn’t even come close. Adding the fact that gambling is being legalized all over the country, football stands to make a lot of money. But the owners know that if they add more games it will make all their broadcasting contracts even bigger.
This cash grab might hurt in the long run of the sport by cheapening the regular season. Another factor could be the lone bye week given out to the No. 1 seeds in the playoffs. That bye week has become almost a necessity to getting to the Super Bowl.
Regardless of these concerns in all likelihood America would love an extra game and more playoffs while getting rid of the dreaded preseason. Ironically in the “era of player safety” players will have to put their bodies on the line even more, and because of this logic they rejected the deal.
What’s In It for the Players? — The owners proposed to trade the players more of the total revenue pie going from 47 percent to 48-48.5% of the $16 billion pie. That is a significant increase of money for the players.
Some of the other significant items given to the players included relaxed drug testing for marijuana, increased roster and practice squad spots, some of the gambling revenue, less training camp practices, and Roger Goodell’s power being reduced when it comes to fines or suspensions. Plenty of good things to go along with advances in health care for players but its not enough. Players rightfully have a tough decision because the proposed deal is much better than the last deal.
Maybe they could negotiate harder and get a better deal but you never know and a lockout tends to hurt players more than owners. Still the players have to renegotiate on some items like the 17th game. Contracts are based on 16 games meaning in the proposed deal a 17th game check would be issued and capped at $250,000. Lots of star players would make substantially less with a game cap set at 250,000. Another issue is the health insurance and its a joke really what NFL players get.
Baseball and basketball offer health insurance for life at very reasonable service time. The NFL does not offer healthcare for life and many players lose out on qualifying. These are some of the strongest contentions the players will have with the proposed deal. Now the question becomes how dug in will the players be towards getting what they want.
What Will Happen — Players will vote on the proposed deal as soon as Tuesday with essentially a cutoff of Thursday. Many believe a deal is close and that there is a chance a deal is announced at the Combine with all NFL personnel in Indianapolis for the week. Players have a lot of things to consider and a lot of voices to try to unify.
Historically the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) has been weak in its negations with the owners and have routinely come up short in CBA negotiations. In 2011 the players got destroyed by the owners getting very little benefits. No doubt advances have been made with more benefits for players and a lot more money is there to be gained. All the NFL owners are itching to put this CBA to bed so they can start the TV negotiations. Can the NFLPA turn the owner’s greed into big time benefits? Remember, a CBA is a series of compromises with good and bad for both sides.
NFL players need excellent health insurance and deserve all the money they can get with how short careers are, they also should be paid fairly for extra games because the sport is brutal compared to any other. At this point in time its more likely a CBA gets ratified than not but a lot can change because it seems the players are pretty split down the middle.
Almost like a political drama, stay tuned for the vote count when the players get together because it will tell all of us how far or close the NFL is to a new CBA. Tick by tick a resolution has to come soon if football will continue uninterrupted.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR