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NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement aims to take care of players, retirees

San Francisco 49ers play an NFL divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 11 in Santa Clara.
San Francisco 49ers play an NFL divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 11 in Santa Clara.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

Representatives from the NFL and players’ union are scheduled to meet Sunday to continue negotiations on a proposed 10-year collective bargaining agreement that will add a 17th game to the regular season while providing an immediate pay increase for the vast majority of players.

The sides are engaged in a line-by-line examination of the proposal before putting it to a vote of the roughly 2,000 players. It requires a simple majority to pass.

More than prior CBAs, this deal is aimed to appeal to the rank and file, with increased compensation for every minimum-salary player, meaning 60% of the league.

“The top players are always going to make bank, and the owners are always going to do well,” said Marc Ganis, the Chicago-based co-founder of Sportscorp Ltd., a sports consulting firm. “What this agreement does is take great care of the majority of the players, enhances benefits for the retirees, and provides for the future of healthcare.”

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The current CBA expires after this season, and the sides have spent the past 10 months working on the terms of the next accord.

The promise of labor peace is essential when it comes to negotiating the next round of media deals, both broadcasting and online. Those partners are far less willing to spend billions to show the games if the prospect of a work stoppage is looming.

By a narrow margin, the league’s 32 player representatives voted 17-14-1 in favor of sending the proposal to the entire body of players. Some have looked to pump the brakes on negotiations in light of the health and safety concerns of adding an extra game.

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In an extensive statement posted to Twitter, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers wrote “16 games to me, was never something to be negotiated. The owners made it clear that the 17th game is about paying for the ‘added’ benefits, and had nothing to do with the positive feedback received about any extra risks involved with the added regular season game.”

He added: “There were also many issues raised about the workplace, the workload and the offseason program. Some have been addressed, while others have not.”

The NFL contends that adding a 17th game would make it possible to raise minimum salaries, create new performance escalators, enhance injury protections and other benefits for current players, and allow for substantial pension increases as well as additional benefits for retirees.

Under the proposed deal:

  • Salaries for approximately 1,100 players would increase for the 2020 season, and subsequently throughout the terms of the agreement. A minimum-salary player who was a rookie last year will see a significant pay raise from $495,000 to $675,000. By the fourth year, his salary will have nearly doubled.
  • A player injured during the season will receive 100% of his salary up to $2 million, compared with the current 50% and a maximum of $1.2 million.
  • Every club can bring as many as three players back from injured reserve, compared with two today.
  • Padded practices will be limited to 16 per season — current teams can have as many at 28 — and players cannot be in pads for more than three consecutive days. There is no such rule now.
  • The active roster will be increased by two players, and the practice squad by four.

Whereas some players and advocates have questioned the urgency of reaching a deal now, Ganis cautioned that delaying — particularly coming off an especially strong season in terms of viewership — would be a mistake.

“The players who don’t get what they would otherwise get this year, won’t make it up ever,” he said. “It’s like an airplane that takes off with empty seats. The owners will make it up.”


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