It's official: There will be labor peace in the NFL for the next 10 years. By a margin of only 60 votes, 1,978 NFL players voted to approve the proposed collective bargaining agreement, which will run through the 2030 season. The new agreement will allow the NFL to expand the league schedule from 16 to 17 games as early as the 2021 season, expand the playoff field to seven teams per conference, and increase minimum salaries for players. But while it all seems great, not everyone won in this instance. Here are the biggest winners and losers from the CBA being passed.
Regardless of their views on the individual tenets of the agreement, fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief that there will be no repeat of what happened the last time the NFL and its players came together to negotiate its collective bargaining agreement. The resulting lockout led to the cancellation of that year's Hall of Fame Game - not a huge loss, admittedly, but had a new deal not been hastily reached, the losses could have been far worse. Now we get 10 years of NFL games, plus the potential of more games in the regular season and more teams in the playoffs. That's a big win for fans.
While the NFL did not get the 18-game season it originally pined for, one extra week of regular season games as well as an expanded postseason will bring increased revenue across the board. A fatter league schedule will provide leverage for the league to demand more money from its broadcast partners as well as a way for ABC to get back into the NFL business on a regular basis. Basically, the league will make a lot more money over the next decade.
The new collective bargaining agreement will pump an additional $700 million into the player pool with player revenue seeing an uptick to 47 percent of total NFL revenue. This deal also allows players to sign long-term contracts under the new revenue model. This will be good news for players like Tom Brady, who are looking to get a bigger payday this year.
The rosters are being expanded from 46 to 48 players on game day and practice squads are expanding from 10 players to 12 in 2020 and 14 in 2022. Plus, the minimum salary increased by $100,000. That's a big win for all those 53-esque players on the roster.
An extra playoff spot per conference has to be empowering to any of the teams from the past decade who have consistently hovered around or below the .500 mark. Top-tier franchises competing for the coveted first-round playoff bye will feel the downside, however, as there will be only one bye per conference under the new format. Just ask last year's New England Patriots how important an extra week off is in January.
Remember how players held out when they wanted a trade or a new contract or whatever else they wanted? Don't expect to see that moving forward. If a player is under contract, fines will be increased for holdouts, players will not be able to have the fines waived when they return and, perhaps most importantly, players don't accrue a season of play, so their free agency date will be pushed back. This only applies to veterans under contract, but it's still an important element that gives teams more leverage and takes it away from players.
Injury-prone players/older players
An extra game means extra wear-and-tear on the body. That's not good news for players who are already injury prone or players who are older and trying to extend their careers (think JJ Watt/Aaron Rodgers). The players got the preseason shortened by a week, but that might not be enough to make up for the damage.
No. 2 seeds
Getting a first-round bye has been critical in recent years, with the last team to win the Super Bowl without a bye being the 2012 Ravens. Under the new CBA, only the No. 1 seed gets the coveted bye while the 2 seed plays the last team to make the playoffs. As we've seen in recent years, sometimes that's the hottest team in the NFL, putting even more pressure on those 2 seeds to avoid an upset.
You can say they're winning by getting more football both during the regular season and in the postseason, but they're also going to pay more for it. A lot more. The NFL now has even more leverage, as if they needed it, heading into negotiations with FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN and all the other interested bidders. With broadcast deals ending in 2021 and 2022, and labor peace agreed to through 2030, the NFL will substantially up the asking price knowing those networks rely on the NFL to drive viewership and ad sales.