In a critical step that may change the NFL landscape for at least the next 10 years, the NFL Players Association will convene again after Super Bowl LIV to conditionally vote for or against a 17-game regular-season schedule that likely would commence in 2021 as a new collective bargaining agreement is on the brink of make-or-break, according to sources.
All 32 team player representatives, along with the NFLPA executive board, will meet at an undisclosed location to review a 10-year labor contract for the second time within a week that, as one source described, the players can either “accept the one thing they hate, a 17-game season, in exchange for 10 or more things they want.”
The NFLPA gauged a group of select player agents who were invited on Thursday in Miami to discuss a contentious players’ union meeting that lasted more than six hours to review the proposed new CBA, which has been negotiated for months with NFL owners, sources said.
The agents were included in talks primarily to discuss the ramifications of the players’ rejecting the current proposal, a move that would require extensive planning for a potential lockout and work stoppage in 2021, when the current labor agreement expires, sources said.
The window for a new agreement to be in place “is closing” with urgency for the owners, who are prepared to table their proposal and play out the last year of the deal, a league source said. That scenario would raise the stakes on another work stoppage next year.
The player reps that met Thursday were “just about unanimous” against a 17-game expansion, only to morph into a more conciliatory tone as they were led through the point-by-point analysis of the proposal, a source said. That session concluded with the decision to have another meeting this coming week.
There is a real possibility the players will ask their negotiating team to see whether the owners are willing to consider other concessions, both financially and in further reducing the overall workload in training camp and the preseason, which could be shortened to two or three games.
According to sources, some of the highlights of the CBA proposal:
• The NFL will have an option to establish a 17-game regular season that would not kick in until at least the 2021 season, with the option tied to new revenues in pending TV and media contracts.
• If there is an agreement in place before the new league year in March, the new deal would take effect immediately for the 2020 season, bumping up the players’ share of revenues immediately under a 16-game format.
• The players will receive an annual fixed share in the 48 percent range of an anticipated larger revenue pool and also greater spending minimums for clubs.
• The 2020 season also would likely include an extra playoff game, pending the owners’ approval at the annual league meetings in March.
• Changes to the league’s drug policy would nearly eliminate punishments to players who test positive for marijuana.
• The on-field discipline fine schedule will be modified significantly in the players’ favor.
• The players would gain increases to former player benefits, including a continuation of the legacy fund.