The NFLPA is holding a series of membership-wide conference calls Thursday and Friday to update players around the league on the state of collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL, sources told ESPN.
The sources said Thursday that there are eight calls scheduled — one for each NFL division — and call-in information was distributed to every player in the league, not just the 32 team player representatives. It’s unclear how many players have participated or will participate in the calls, but the union sees this as a chance to speak to its full body of membership about the current CBA offer on the table, as well as the voting procedure by which the deal might eventually be ratified.
The current 10-year CBA proposal includes an option for the NFL to expand its regular season from 16 games to 17 games at some point during the life of the deal (likely sometime between the years 2021 and 2023) while also reducing the number of preseason games and expanding the playoffs to include more teams. Some high-profile player reps have spoken out against the idea of a 17-game season on the grounds that it adds health and safety risks to players in a sport that already includes plenty of them.
Sources familiar with the current proposal say it also includes concessions from the owners’ side on issues such as revenue split, higher minimum salaries, improved player benefits, relaxation of offseason and training camp workout rules, a revised drug policy and others. The questions the players are trying to answer among themselves, the sources said, is whether those concessions are enough to justify an expanded regular season, whether they need to go back to the owners with a counterproposal that asks for more concessions, or whether 17 games is a non-starter no matter what. The NFLPA hopes this week’s conference calls will give it an idea of where a broad cross-section of its members stands on those questions.
No hard deadline has been set for completion of a new CBA, as the current one doesn’t expire until March 2021. But people on both sides are eager to get the deal done in time for the start of the 2020 league year March 18, so that elements of the new deal can be in place in time for this offseason. The NFL is also set to begin negotiations with its TV broadcast partners on new contracts, and the league and said TV broadcast partners would prefer as clear a picture as possible of the labor landscape before finalizing those deals. If no new CBA deal is reached this offseason, the possibility exists that negotiations could float into next offseason, which raises the possibility of a work stoppage in 2021.
The NFLPA’s rules require a two-thirds vote of its player representatives to approve a new CBA deal before it moves on to the next step, which is a vote by every player in the league. Once the vote gets to the full-membership stage, a simple majority of players is required to ratify the deal. Three-fourths of the league’s owners would then have to vote to approve the deal.