Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — The potential new collective bargaining agreement between NFL players and owners is complicated and thorny, but there are three bottom lines:
- It’s likely going to pass once the players vote on it in the coming days.
- There will be a 17-game season and an expanded playoff field next year.
- The reaction to the new deal has exposed the divide between the NFL’s super-powerful players and players who are the league’s equivalent of lower-wage workers.
If the new CBA gets ratified, it would provide labor peace in the NFL for the next 10 years. But the deal is not coming about peacefully, especially within the player pool itself.
In interviews with both younger players and veterans, a contentious picture is emerging. It’s highly likely that a majority of players will vote in favor of the new CBA because they see it as a positive, that labor peace and the assurance that paychecks won’t be interrupted is more important than something that may or may not happen to their physical health in the coming years. But those players face a headwind generated by a bevy of stars, including some of the biggest in the game, who think this deal is horrid, and just as importantly, have the financial security to think long-term.
One second-year player told B/R that the deal provides security for players like him. On the other hand, when asked why he was against it, one of the game’s biggest stars told B/R: “Health and safety. Game is dangerous enough without an extra game. Not enough concessions to make it worth it to us, in my opinion.”
The differences between some veteran and young players have been as stark—and public—as any that almost every player I’ve interviewed can remember.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey railed against it in a video he posted (Warning: NSFW) on Twitter. (I transcribed the video and haven’t heard this much cursing since Def Comedy Jam.)
“Our NFLPA, the dudes at the top … they ain’t looking out for the best of the players. If y’all want my vote, the Pouncey twins vote no.
“If any player on any one of our teams, if y’all are hurting for rent money or anything while we’re going through this lockout, call us. … All the vets on each team, stand the f–k up … and show these guys that we care about them.
“… They’re trying to sign a bulls–t ass deal, just so these motherf–kers can sit there and the president can smile and say they got something done.”
John Bazemore/Associated Press
That’s four future Hall of Famers right there, and those are only the ones who have gone public with their views.
Their main objection comes down to the extra regular-season game. A number of high-profile veterans think the NFL isn’t compensating players enough for what they feel will subject their bodies to even more damage than they already face.
Player reps explained the main aspects of the current proposal to me this way: With the addition of a 17th game, as proposed in the new CBA, players will receive 48 percent of league revenue. That number eventually would climb to 48.5 percent. In all, it’s possible that players would get approximately $5 billion for that extra game over the course of the agreement.
That extra money is what’s convinced so many players (especially younger ones) that the deal is worth it. This view was crystalized in a tweet from Lions linebacker Devon Kennard (who is 28):
My vote was YES. https://t.co/Z9kgkLhBdI
There’s more to the deal, but that extra game is where a lot of big-name veterans feel the players are getting hosed. The extra money that could be generated isn’t enough for the extra brutality their brains and bodies will endure.
One veteran said players would be “fools” for agreeing to this deal.
But truth be told, there are a lot more rank-and-file types than stars. And along with the league’s roster of younger players, that should be enough to pass the new deal. There only needs to be a simple majority of the approximately 2,000 players for the new CBA to pass.
The end result could make some locker rooms, well, interesting.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.