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NFLPA Approves New CBA Through 2030

It was a tight vote with a split membership, but the NFLPA has approved the new CBA. That means labor peace through 2030 and some changes are coming. The biggest: we're getting seven playoff teams per conference starting this upcoming season and the owners have the option to expand the regular season to 17 games as early as 2021 (and by option, I mean, they will do this, though maybe not until 2022 pr 2023 because of logistics). Player share of revenue rises to at least 48%, minimum salaries are going up, and roster sizes are expanding. Gameday rosters go to 48 players, practice squads will go to 12 players this year and 14 players in 2022, and there will be new rules making it easier to activate players from practice squads and then send them back down.

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28 comments, Last at 01 Apr 2020, 11:07am

1 This deal is a travesty and…

This deal is a travesty and a masterclass in just how much power the owners have over the players. Want to pass something that is generally an anathema to the players? Appeal to the masses with modest gains and it will overrule the body that is mostly affected. The lower class got some immediate benefit( an immediate pay bump and a guaranteed length of 10 years so no chance of a work stoppage).

 

The former players got screwed and so did the middle and high end guys. Of course,  the owners knew that minimum guys would never care about former players nor the richer one's. The top end players who won't even get a prorated extra week of pay and inexorably are the one's that play the majority of snaps in week 17. Oh and this deal runs through 2030.  I am not surprised this thing passed and it highlights just how much the union stands on shaky footing.

2 You start off by describing…

You start off by describing the deal as something that is "generally anathema to the players," then make clear that the deal is anything but that. As you've framed it the deal is bad for a relatively few players at the top. A union working primarily to benefit the mediocre, against the interests of top performers, is just how a union works. That's almost the whole point.

5 It's actually not. It's…

It's actually not. It's actually better for the players at the top long-term than it is the players at the bottom. Like, *way* better. But the thing is, those players don't really need the money at this point. They're way past the point of diminishing returns, even for their entire life. At this point I'm not sure there's any amount of money that could've gotten some of the top players to agree to a 17th game. But because the NFL managed to control the narrative, somehow it became "this is a great deal for min salary players!"

The minimum salary players are getting a big boost - but that's because they've been incredibly screwed by the previous CBA. Really, really bad. They're still being screwed by the new CBA. Just not as bad. But it's still a bad trend. 

Over The Cap covered this well: https://overthecap.com/is-the-proposed-minimum-salary-growth-enough/ and of course got absolutely no attention from the media.

To be clear, a player in their 5th year had a minimum salary of $535K in 2000. Under the current CBA it was $685K. That's 28% growth in 20 years. The cap grew from $62M -> $188M over that same time. Those same 5th year players should be making $1.6M. That's how screwed they've been over the years. 28% growth versus 303% growth!

In the new CBA they'll be making $910K. That's still way lower than cap growth over that same time. And in the new CBA that tender still isn't tied to cap growth, which means in 2030, the cap should be in the neighborhood of ~$400M. 5-year minimum salary players should be earning over $3M if money was distributed the same as back in 2000 - and instead they'll be making less than half that.  (It isn't just the 5-year minimum players that are screwed by this - all minimum salary players are.)

Just like OTC mentions in their article, the same thing will happen in 2030: the NFL will give a big boost to min salary players, offer a small overall boost, and get the CBA passed because the majority of the players voting just see the bone thrown in front of them.

7 How does this benefit most…

How does this benefit most of the high-end players long-term? as far as I read they are not getting a prorated salary increase for that additional week and high end players play the most snaps on average. It's telling that all of the high-end players were against this deal.

 

The threat of injury already severely weakened the players bargaining power. Adding an additional week only ups the injury risk. 

9 It benefits them more …

It benefits them more *financially*. This CBA continues the (unsustainable) trend of dedicating more and more value to the high-end players. By 2030, the fraction of money spent on non-minimum players will likely be as high or higher than it ever has been before.

You're absolutely right though that to them, they're seeing an increase in risk and basically just a status-quo increase in salary. So it doesn't look like a good deal to them. But because their status-quo growth is unsustainable (QB salary growth rates have exceeded cap growth for years, for instance) it's totally a good deal.

It doesn't surprise me at all that most high-end players have come out against it. Doesn't mean it isn't actually a good deal for them.

11 I think it's a net negative…

I think it's a net negative. Look given the rules favoring passing and the rookie wage scale, it was inevitable that as the game grew in revenue that the high-end players are going to get a disproportionate share of it. This is a fact unrelated to the new CBA.

 

I'm debating the merits between the current CBA and this CBA not in the land of the ideal. The fact that it adds additional risk, doesn't add commensurate salary increase, and it reduces players benefits after retirement is to me a very bad thing. I'm happy that the minimum salary guys got a nice bump, but it wasn't enough to justify this. They could have gotten more if they had held strong imo.

 

13 "it was inevitable that as…

"it was inevitable that as the game grew in revenue that the high-end players are going to get a disproportionate share of it. This is a fact unrelated to the new CBA."

Uh, no? The low-end players constitute the majority of the league, and the league's unionized. They should've demanded salary cap-tracked growth.

Why would the high-end players agree to that, you might ask? Because of exactly what happened here - so long as minimum salary isn't tied to the cap, the players lose a massive amount of leverage each negotiation cycle, because they're letting the NFL manipulate the vote. Bumping the minimum salaries literally costs the teams nothing and it increases the chance that the NFLPA will pass it.

Financially this is a good deal for the high-end players, but it's a very bad deal overall, and I'm pretty darn sure that the high-end players voted against it because of that. Same thing's going to happen in 10 years. The NFL will want something the majority of players don't want in isolation (probably an 18th game), they'll throw a 20% raise at the league minimum players, and the CBA will pass. 

17 I agree but nothing you have…

I agree but nothing you have said here contradicts my basic point - that the owners leveraged the minimum contract players against the high end paying players. If this was a pure transfer, I'd be more sympathetic, but it's not. As you rightly point out, the minimum guys are still way underpaid and the higher end are still going to make a huge amount but take more injury risk(and more injuries).

 

Meanwhile, all of the bad things in the previous CBA remains. 

20 Not all the bad things

My understanding is the pads-on practices are reduced, the commissioner’s disciplinary authority is reduced, the penalties for weed use are reduced, etc. So there were some gains.

6 I should have replaced…

I should have replaced anathema with short-sighted. 

It just strikes me as extremely unfair system  where the benefits  accrue to one group and the cost disproportionately to another.

I don't want to take this too politically but let's imagine if this were a company where a policy was passed that increased all of the low-wage workers by 10% and forced all of the high-wage earners to work an additional 6 hours a day.  such a policy could be enacted but would never go through because all of the high-wage earners would leave and find jobs at different companies. But this is professional football so that option does not exist.

25 "It just strikes me as…

"It just strikes me as extremely unfair system  where the benefits  accrue to one group and the cost disproportionately to another."

... Except the problem with that logic is that the reason it happened was that in the 2011 CBA, it was the *exact opposite*. By making sure that the minimums grew far slower than the cap, they essentially guaranteed that by 2020 the lowest-paid players would be far behind them on the curve.

And of course the NFLPA apparently must not have realized the danger of this (because of the loss of negotiating power) because they basically just did it again in this CBA.

It's just really, really bad foresight on the NFLPA's part. 

28 One issue I have with your…

One issue I have with your argument is assuming just because you demanded higher minimum salaries means the owners will end up paying those. it will just mean shifting more 5 year veteran minimum salary guys to undrafted rookie free agent minimum salary guys. 

 

there's also this issue that while minimum salary guys make up most of the Union they don't play most of the snaps. 

 

You could argue there should be a snap weighted voting system in place

14 The extra game translates…

The extra game translates into more revenue, which translates into a higher salary cap. So the players do get paid extra for the extra game.

(Although maybe not the ones who have already signed contracts for those years.)

3 I hate the extra playoff…

I hate the extra playoff teams. American sports in general really does not need to up the ante on the already random enough structure of a playoff system. More mediocre teams making the playoffs isn't good. It's going to be very stupid the first time some 8-8 mediocrity flukes their way past a 13-3 2. seed. One of the reasons why the NFL regular season has remained relatively compelling (unlike the NBA, MLB, and the NHL) is that only having 12 total qualifiers, along with four byes, means most games still matter. This change makes it easier to make the playoffs but much harder to get a bye, making the regular season less important and interesting.

4 "very stupid the first time…

"very stupid the first time some 8-8 mediocrity flukes their way past a 13-3 2."

 

Erm...we already had Beastquake in which a 7-9 beat a defending Super Bowl champion 11-5, and 8-8 Tebow beating the 12-4 Steelers, so this theoretical hardly feels like something different.

 

And the underdog teams were arguably *worse* coming in than their records indicated; SEA was 30th DVOA, and DEN was 24th, with NO and PIT being 10th and 2nd.  People got excited by the upset wins, though.

 

There are a lot of reasons to oppose expanded playoffs, i.e. the harder bye, but your example isn't really one of them.

10 None of those teams had the…

None of those teams had the second best record in the conference. Mediocre or downright bad teams getting lucky wins has already happened sometimes in the past. Now it will happen a lot more often. That's bad.

8 I've always found it…

I've always found it interesting that the NBA players union has far more power than the NFL players union seems to, both in terms of percentage of revenue distributed to the players and the ability to ensure guaranteed contracts and no franchise tag.

My theory about why this is is twofold. First the number of people belonging to the NBA players association is far fewer than in the NFL and because careers are much longer in the NBA, players can stomach a hold out much more.

My second theory is that due to the nature of the max salary, most of the NBA's lower to middle-class are being subsidized by the stars of The league. As  such they are more willing to be conciliatory to what the Stars want than in the NFL.

12 Another item I would add…

Another item I would add that's at least as important (and is somewhat related) to the two you mention is the inevitability of injuries in the NFL. Whether you're talking about catastrophic injuries or long-term accumulation, injuries cast a lot of uncertainty on the potential career length, peak earnings window, and/or peak effectiveness of every single player. All of that has to figure into the willingness of players to hold out.

I don't sympathize with them, but I do understand why teams are hesitant to give most players fully-guaranteed contracts given the injury risk/uncertainty. It's my understanding that there's no provision anywhere in the CBA of either the NBA or MLB for guaranteed contracts - it's just arisen naturally. It appears to me to show that NFL players functionally have less bargaining power than their peers in other sports, it's not just that they have a weak union. (You do still see things like option years in those leagues, so not all contracts even necessarily guaranteed, but obviously it's a much better situation than in the NFL.)

The franchise tag really only affects a tiny number of players, so even though it definitely suppresses salaries at the top, it's hard to see it ever being a major priority for the NFLPA. The same amount of money has to be spent on player salaries overall anyway.

15 Players in the sport with…

Players in the sport with the highest injury rate are simply never going to have as much leverage with management as players in other sport, even before we get to roster size effects, and there is no way to avoid this.

18 I suspect the infrastructure…

I suspect the infrastructure behind an NFL team is considerably larger than that behind an NBA team. Whether the amount of equipment for every player or the stadium size, size of coaching staff, and quite possibly size of medical staff as well. This likely legitimately accounts for at a moderate chunk of whatever percentage the players don’t get. Of course owner greed also counts, 

There was talk of adding a second bye week along with a 17th game. That would also boost league revenues (an extra week of TV coverage to sell) but may also help reduce wear & tear injuries a little, as hopefully will the extra roster size. Whether shorter preseason schedule helps or hinders injuries probably depends at least a little on some of the players - staying closer to game shape in the off-season might become more important?

The deal does favour the owners, in all likelihood, but there are some gains for the players, and everybody gains by avoiding strikes/lockouts and those disruptions.

16 I'm not surprised, but it…

I'm not surprised, but it really annoys me that the rookie wage scale is going to continue to harm young guys, especially at running back. I did think the guys could get an extra bye week, and no more games on 3 days rest, in return for a 17th game, so that is disappointing.

19 The performance escalator…

The performance escalator for 2nd round picks might help a number of running backs, clutching at straws a bit, I know, but we can hope. 

I don’t think the logistics of the extra week have been sorted yet, so an extra bye week may still happen. I can imagine a lot of coaching staffs would like it, and adding 2 weeks to regular season (1 game + 1 bye) would likely boost TV revenues more than adding 1 week. There does appear to be more recognition that 3 days rest isn’t enough so maybe sense will be seen.

22 One of the clauses that…

One of the clauses that seems to have gone under the radar is about veteran holdouts. Fines will no longer be allowed to be revoked AND if player doesn't report he loses a year towards free agency. (Might have the exact details wrong about that latter part).

That a major point of leverage being lost although I'm not sure how many players it would actually affect these days.

26 As a fan, I don't like the…

As a fan, I don't like the 7th playoff team or the 17th game. I think both ultimately devalue the product.

Also, it is absolutely ludicrous that the players don't even get a slim majority of the revenue, in the sport that has by far the biggest risk/likelihood of life-altering injuries. And I am always amazed how many members of the general public reflexively side with billionaire owners over millionaire players (and of course, when it comes to NFL players, many aren't even millionaires).