A vote of NFL players on the proposed new collective bargaining agreement closed at 8:59 p.m. Saturday. The outcome of the vote was not immediately revealed.
The result could set up labor peace between players and owners for the next 11 years or pit the two sides against each other entering the final year of the current CBA, setting up a potential work stoppage.
With the start of the NFL’s new calendar year on March 18th and the beginning of the legal tampering period between teams and prospective free agents approaching on Monday, the operating rules for the 2020 season depend on whether a simple majority of the players voted yes on a proposal that already has been approved by the players reps of the 32 teams by a vote of 17-14-1.
If so, the NFL landscape will change considerably. Among the highlights of the new deal, which owners already have ratified:
— Beginning in 2021, owners have the option of expanding the regular season from 16 games to 17, with each team getting an extra bye week to replace a fourth preseason game.
— The NFL will add two more teams to the playoff field beginning in 2020 — bringing the number to seven in each conference — and award first-round byes to only the top seed in each conference.
— The players cut of total revenue, which currently stands at 47 percent, would increase to 48 percent in 2021, with the ability to increase to 48.8 percent as a result of a “media kicker” for a 17th game and the growth of the NFL’s new television rights deals.
For instance, a 60 percent increase in television rights would mean the players’ cut of revenue growing to 48.5 percent of revenue. A 120-percent increase would kick that cut up to 48.8 percent.
— Beginning immediately the salaries for players playing on minimum-salaried deals — or 60 percent of the workforce — would get a significant bump. As a result, a 2019 rookie player slated to make $585,000 in 2020 will make $675,000 next season if the new deal is approved.
A minimum-salaried player with two credited seasons would see an increase in his salary from $660,000 to $750,000 under the new deal. Over the course of the new CBA, minimum salaries would grow to $1 million by 2029.
— NFL rosters would increase from 53 players to 55 and the active game-day roster would expand from 46 to 48.
— Padded practices in training camp would be cut from 28 to 16.
— While players still will be tested for substance abuse, and fines still will be levied for repeat offenders, they will no longer be suspended for positive tests for any drug the league targets for substance abuse. That does not include performance- enhancing drugs, which are still subject to suspension.
Should players not approve the new deal, owners have already agreed to play the 2020 season under the current CBA, which is set to expire at the end of the season.
It would also set up an ominous upcoming season, with the threat of a potential work stoppage hovering over everyone’s head.
Various players have expressed satisfaction with the new deal on social media, but a fair number of others have openly rejected it with a promise to vote no.