In an attempt to avoid a work stoppage as the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2020 season, NFL owners have been working furiously to come up with a proposal for a new agreement with the players and their union, the NFLPA. Owners approved a new proposal on Thursday, voted on by the 32 ownership groups and passed with enough to send it to the players.
It’s an interesting proposal with quite a few changes. Some seem like good ideas, others need to go back to the proverbial drawing board. Here are some of the key points, broken down as Rules of Thumb.
To adding a 7th playoff team in each conference. I like the concept of expanding to a seventh team from each conference making the postseason. It would produce an extra game on Wild Card weekend in both the AFC and NFC, cutting back on one bye. Only the No. 1 seed in each conference gets a bye.
There is so many positives about this change. It curbs the top teams resting players for the playoffs at the end of the season by making the No. 1 seed mean that much more. It helps more fanbases stay in the playoff race longer, making more December games meaningful in more places. As someone who covers the Browns and Lions, it might even help those woebegone franchises.
To lowering the penalties for positive tests for marijuana. With weed being legalized in many states now, including where I live in Michigan, the NFL is right to decriminalize testing positive for THC. The proposal appears to end mandatory suspensions for testing positive solely for marijuana; other drugs and being arrested with possession would still merit suspensions.
The potential for players to use marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain management is something that needs to happen. Shrinking the testing window for marijuana is a nice step, too. Jarvis Landry being tested at the Pro Bowl was a symbolic tipping point for overkill against an increasingly accepted medicinal and stress-relief aid.
To the increased restrictions on practices. One of the reasons for the widely perceived decline in overall play is the diminishing practice schedule. Less contact and less time leads to sloppier execution, bad tackling and poorer coordination of defenses. The new proposal cuts back even further on contact practices, facility time for players, and also whacks the preseason back to just 3 games.
That fourth preseason game might be pointless for veterans, but for a lot of young players it’s the only game experience they’ll get before being called up from the practice squad in Week 12 when the three RBs ahead of them on the depth chart are all injured. I understand the players hate practicing, but the cutbacks have negatively impacted the on-field product. The players must understand that concept.
To the new revenue split. Under the proposed deal by the owners, the players would get 48 percent of total revenue each year. That’s up one percent from the current split of 47 percent, and it’s not an insignificant amount. It’s approximately $3 billion in total money transferred to the players over the life of the 10-year proposal.
It’s not enough, not unless the owners are doing more with the post-football issues for players and giving up other concessions to help make life better for players. If it’s not 50-50 between the 32 owners and the nearly 2,000 players on active rosters and injured reserve each year, it’s not worthwhile for the NFLPA to accept it.
It’s a fair starting point in the negotiating process from the owners. It’s also a good litmus test for them on the NFLPA priorities. Will the players acquiesce on every single other issue to get more of the total pie, as they historically do? This proposal will hint at the answer, and that should foster better back-and-forth negotiations from this point.
To the 17-game schedule. Far be it from me to complain about getting more football, but this isn’t the way to make it happen. There is not enough benefit to the players or the fans to justify one extra game. If they’re going to add games, make it two and go to 18 games. Throw a second bye week in there, too.
The odd number just doesn’t make sense. What happens with the logistics? Will some teams get a 9th home game, versus just eight for others? Or will every team get a neutral site game, be it London or Mexico City or Shanghai? The NFL already can’t come up with an equitable, fair bye system, how in the world can we trust them to do this right either?
Adding more games also further waters down the statistical benchmark accomplishments, like a 1,000-yard rusher or a 4,000-yard passer. It stresses the importance of depth in a league where depth is a fallacy for most teams at most positions. If the lesson the NFL is learning from the XFL is that playing bad offensive tackles and cornerbacks with dripping with butter from their toasted crumbs in coverage, it’s the wrong takeaway.