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Key takeaways from owners’ CBA proposal to NFLPA

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-NFLPA Press Conference John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is entering its final season under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), last signed in 2011. Team owners have been discussing possible changes to the new CBA for a long time but those conversations resulted in a concrete proposal to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) this month.

The topics covered in the CBA often have a profound impact on that product fans see on the field. Roster sizes can be altered, game rules can be adjusted, the schedule may change, and certainly player compensation and revenue splitting often receives top billing.

We will point out some of the items in the owners’ proposal that may be of greatest interest. Along with some of the topics that are likely to prove as sticking points for the players. For your reference: The NFLPA’s Fact Sheet on the latest CBA proposal.

A primary facet of every new CBA is a proposal to increase the players’ split of revenues. Included in this CBA is an up front boost to minimum salaries and a system for annual increases thereafter. The terms of this CBA will be good for another 10 years.

o $100K increase in 2020 for Rookie Minimums, another $50K increase in 2021 and then $45K increase each year after
o At least $90K increase in 2020 for other minimum salaried players; $80K to $105K increase in 2021 and then $45K increase each year after
o Right to use Rookie Distribution pool to provide additional payments to players at minimum salaries to keep minimum salaries in-line with cap growth

One of the sticking points from a compensation perspective has to do with the owners’ desire to move the regular season to 17 games. They are proposing an increase in players salaries by 1/17 of their annual salary in years where 17 games are played in the regular season but they cap the compensation at $250,000 — well below what some of the more highly compensated players would earn in a game.

Bonus payment of 1/17 of his paragraph 5 salary up to $250K to any player whose contract runs through a season when 17 games is played

The new CBA proposal would require teams to get up to 90% cash spending over two three-year periods at the front of the new CBA and one four-year period at the end. As we’ve explained before, this cash spending number is shockingly easy for teams to hit as cash spending includes bonus money whereas cap spending spreads out the bonus over the terms of the contract.

Increase average Minimum Team Cash Spending to 90% over tranches of 3-3-4 year periods

The new CBA proposes to increase the practice squad from 12 players to 14 total players with two spots available for players with unlimited accrued experience.

Raises for Practice Squad Players to $10.5K per week; total number of 12 players increasing to 14 players, with two unlimited Accrued Seasons players

A change to the 5th year option would benefit first round picks who have high levels of production by guaranteeing full salaries for the fourth and fifth year of said player’s contract once the option is exercised. However, the option amounts will no longer be tied to draft spot in the first round — meaning that some players may see a smaller option than they did in the previous CBA.

5th Year Options fully guaranteed for 4th and 5th years at the time option is exercised; Amount of Option dependent on player achievement and no longer based on which slot selected in first round

There are a variety of changes proposed to training camp that would include additional guaranteed days off and limits on full padded practices.

Training Camp
• Introduction of 5-day acclimation period
• 2.5-hour limit on padded and full speed practices
• Limit time at facility during a given work day
• Limit of 16 days in pads o No more than 3 consecutive days for 3 out of the 5 weeks o No more than 2 consecutive days for 2 out of 5 weeks
• 3-day weekend at end of camp if 17 games is implemented
• 2 days off in the first week, one day every 7 thereafter
• Limit of 4 Joint Practices if 3 preseason games

On interesting point is that numerous portions of the owners’ proposal are tied to moving the regular season to a 17-game schedule. If the NFLPA is opposed to accepting a 17-game regular season schedule, much of this proposal will have to be modified considerably.

Another interesting area of the owners’ proposal involves its policy restricting the use of marijuana. Testing windows are adjusted, penalties are reduced, and positive test levels have been raised.

Changes to Drug Policy o Narrows the testing window of THC from four months to two weeks at the start of training camp
o Reduces the penalties to players who test positive for THC, eliminating any game suspensions strictly for positive tests
o Reduces the number of players subjected to testing for THC
o Increases the nanogram limit from 35 to 150

The last of the changes that really could have an impact on teams is an increase of the active game day roster and rules on bringing players back from the injured reserve.

It should be noted that this process can move quickly or could become a drawn out circus. At least initially, the proposal that the owners’ formally sent to the NFLPA was already negotiated by NFLPA leadership. In essence, the proposal should have been something the Executive Committee felt good about. Instead, the same body voted against recommending it to the players.

This doesn’t mean that the proposal will be scrapped and it doesn’t yet mean that the owners need to make any changes. The NFLPA could move to a vote of all members and reach an agreement by majority vote. Still, it’s a reminder how complex these organizations and voting processes can become when billions of dollars per year is at stake.

For more information on the NFLPA process, rules, and possible hang-ups, visit Mike Florio’s story on Pro Football Talk.