The NFL CBA Vote Deadline Arrives in the Midst of Chaos
I certainly would not blame you if you forgot, but lost in the madness of the last week is the fact that the NFL player's decision on whether or not to ratify the new proposed collective bargaining agreement is due on Saturday night. The NFLPA brought the proposal to the players a week ago, and originally gave a Thursday deadline before deciding to extend it so every player can fully digest what the deal entails.
To say things have changed since the agreement was originally brought to the table would be quite the understatement. Just about every active sports league in the world has either postponed or canceled their season over the span of the last five days. The NFL is in the midst of its offseason, but has told teams they're prohibiting in-person pre-draft visits for all prospects and most teams have pulled their scouts off the road by this point. But reports suggest they have no inclination to delay the start of the new league year, currently scheduled for March 18, also the day teams can sign free agents.
This new CBA was already coming at a complicated time. Under the new proposal, teams cannot use both a franchise tag and a transition tag in one offseason, but under the old rules, they can. But the deadline to use those tags was supposed to be Tuesday, when the new proposal won't be ratified (or denied) until Saturday. The tag deadline was pushed back until Monday, but the grand machinations of a team's free agency are extremely delicate. Front offices around the league are stuck in a certain state of limbo because they don't know if they can use a tag past tonight. The Cowboys are a great example; if the new CBA is denied, they can use the franchise tag on Dak Prescott and the transition tag on Byron Jones to potentially keep both. But if the new CBA is ratified, they'll be forced to use the franchise tag on Prescott and let Jones walk for nothing if they can't come to a long-term deal with either player before the start of free agency.
Then there's the fact that the NFLPA went through their election cycle this week and Eric Winston, the president who negotiated the deal, was replaced by Browns guard J.C. Trotter. Russell Okung, a vice president of the NFLPA, accused his organization of violating labor laws in an unfair labor practice charge he filed early last week, and in the document said certain members of the NFLPA infringed upon the laws of the organization to push the CBA past the executive committee to the playoffs. Multiple players voted on the new CBA early in the week before the NFLPA provided a side-by-side comparison of what would change under the new rules, and were unable to switch their vote if that new information changed their line of thinking. Add all that in to the crashing stock market, the ever-looming threat of what is now a pandemic, the state of emergency declared in the United States yesterday, and, well... Things are hectic.
It's hard to say how coronavirus might affect any of the parts of the new CBA without having read every little detail, down to the fine print. But what the pandemic does hammer home is how fragile everything is, and while it oft seems otherwise, sports is not an infallible industry-- not even the NFL, titans of said industry. This may motivate some players to take the deal while they can and before the owners can add in any provisions as a result of the events of the past week. It may also motivate others to fight for the best deal they can because you never know when things could take a turn for the worse.
The players had a lot to consider on March 8. On March 14, they have significantly more to take into account. Tonight will tell us how our new world has impacted their thinking.