Sean Pendergast

NFL Players Vote To Pass New Collective Bargaining Agreement

J.J. Watt did not get his wish, as the players passed the new CBA by a very thin margin.
J.J. Watt did not get his wish, as the players passed the new CBA by a very thin margin. Photo by Eric Sauseda
With the coronavirus pandemic and the complete shutdown of sporting events as its backdrop, the NFL Players Association, on Saturday night, ratified a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that is set to begin immediately, and will run through 2030. As we all know, here in Houston, this was not an agreement that players were in lockstep on, as the most famous athlete in our city tweeted this back in February, on the day the owners approved it on their end:

Now, to be fair to J.J. Watt, we don't know for sure what his final vote was on the deal, but I think it's safe to assume that he was in the 959 players that voted against the deal. Much to the chagrin of those dissenting votes, the deal has been approved. There will be labor peace, there will be football, there will be no lockout next summer. Here are the key things to unpack from Sunday morning's news:

Did the coronavirus pandemic get the CBA passed?
We know that Watt wasn't the only vocal "big name" player opposed to this CBA. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and Aaron Rodgers were among the others. The final vote tally was a razor thin 1,019 to 959. That means if 31 players had flipped their vote from YAY to NAY, this thing would not have passed. Given that 65 percent of the league makes the league minimum — a group of players set to get an immediate $90,000 annual raise under this new deal — it's safe to say there was major influence from these big names. That said, reportedly a ton of YAY votes came in late in the process, once we started living under the cloud of the coronavirus. If there were some way to track the trends in the voting, I would guess that this CBA was trending toward being declined about a week ago (again, through the influence of big name players), and then swung back to approval once the rank and file realized that many owners were losing hundreds of millions from the collapse of the economy amidst this pandemic. So one very small silver lining in this quarantined age we are living in right now — if you wanted labor peace, you got it, and you might be able to thank the coronavirus.

What will a 17 game season look like?
As part of this deal, the owners can implement a 17-game regular season starting as early as 2021, and as late as 2023. (For what it's worth, 2022 seems to be the target educated folks are discussing, given the time frames on the league's TV deals.) This was the one big bargaining chip the players held over the owners, and now it's been played. In exchange, the proletariat in the league got big raises, weed usage became much easier, padded practices are practically extinct, and retired players got some more money (among other things). As a fan, the big question to me is "What will the 17th game look like?" I'm hoping for some incorporation of "rivalry" games, but we shall see. The 17th game isn't the only extra football, we are getting, though....

Extra playoff football... a good thing?
Starting THIS season, the NFL will add a third wild card team to each conference's playoff bracket. Here are the reasons I don't like this —  I think the NFL is the one league that perfectly rewards teams right now. I think the top two teams in each conference getting a bye is appropriate, I think the four division winners being guaranteed a home game (regardless of record) makes sense, and I think the cut off at two wild cards (both having to go on the road) is largely in line. The reason I like adding another playoff team? MORE FOOTBALL, of course! Also, as someone who is paid to be part of the Texans' game day broadcast presentation, my chances at at least another week of money just went up, FULL DISCLOSURE!

More jobs, more jobs!
Again, for a CBA that really lifts up the rank and file, this thing was shockingly close to being turned down. Another example of helping the guys whose careers are more likely to be 2-4 years, as opposed to 10+ years, is the fact that game day rosters will increase from 46 to 48 (including one more offensive lineman, mandatory), increasing rosters each week from 53 to 55, and increasing practice squad numbers from 10 players to 12, with a bump up to 14 by 2022. Thus CBA will have created nearly another couple hundred jobs by 2022, which again, is great for guys trying to make enough to form a nest egg by age 25, something most regular jobs don't even come close to doing.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast