With the rest of the sporting world shut down, NFL meetings and free agency are likely to provide much of the entertainment in coming weeks.
It began this weekend, with NFL players voting to adopt a new collective bargaining agreement that will see the league eventually move to a 17-game season and add two teams to the playoff field. According to NFL.com, the vote concluded late Saturday night, with players ratifying the CBA by a 1,019 to 959 vote.
“NFL players have voted to approve ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “This result comes after a long and democratic process in accordance with our constitution. An independent auditor received submitted ballots through a secure electronic platform, then verified, tallied and certified the results.”
"We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "We appreciate the tireless efforts of the members of the Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA leadership, both of whom devoted nearly a year to detailed, good faith negotiations to reach this comprehensive, transformative agreement."
The CBA, which was approved by the owners in February and includes increases in minimum salaries, performance-based pay and player revenue, will be in effect from the 2020 season through the 2030 campaign.
A number of players spoke out against the deal, including Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid saying it’s a disaster and he’s “gutted for the families who’s livelihoods depend on their disability benefits. I’m blown away that many current players don’t realize how bad the economics of this deal area and voted it through.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith posted an open letter Saturday night, saying that the deal is a net positive for the league’s players. Smith said there will be an annual player payroll in salaries and benefits of about $8 billion next season, with the benefits package each year starting at nearly $45 million per team.
“The current proposal contains increases across almost every category of wages, hours, working conditions and benefits for current and former players,” Smith said. “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.
“There are literally hundreds of issues in any collective bargaining agreement that affect thousands of circumstances and impact thousands of current and former players which we must consider carefully. It is also a fact that any CBA has different effects on differently situated people who are at different stages of their careers.”
The extended regular season is scheduled to begin in 2021, as the players agreed to move from 16 games to 17. Rosters will also increase from 53 to 55 men, while the amount of practices that include pads will be decreased, and penalties will be reduced for players who test positive for THC.
“Our members have spoken and the CBA has been ratified,” NFLPA union president JC Tretter said in a statement, noting that the deal also provides increased pensions and benefits for retired players. “We understand that not all deals are perfect, and we don’t take the gains we wanted, but couldn’t get, lightly. We now must unite and move forward as a union.”