The NFL and its players know that they’re due to take a big financial hit in 2020-2021.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a ban on fans and other changes that are likely to be made have resulted in a projected revenue shortfall and that money has to be made up somewhere.
Thus, the players and the league reached an agreement this past weekend that will ensure a smooth beginning to this upcoming season and help offset any financial trouble incurred by either side.
“The NFL clubs and the NFL Players Association approved an agreement that broadly resolves all outstanding issues relating to the opening of training camps and start of the 2020 season,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Training camps will begin as scheduled.”
As rookies have begun to report to training camps around the league, an agreement on an adjusted collective bargaining agreement was vital, and was agreed upon by a 29 to three vote by the NFLPA’s player reps.
The agreement includes a salary cap decrease for the 2021 season, a big win for the players who were in fear of the ‘20 cap being lowered. The players believed a lower cap would result in numerous high-priced veterans being cut or traded as teams tried to fit under the cap. The ‘21 cap will be lessened to $175 million from the $198.2 million where it resides this season.
The $175 million cap is just a floor, and is likely to rise if the economic shortfalls are less than expected. Free agency this offseason is expected to be toned down as a result of the hit to the salary cap in ‘21.
The complete financial hit, which is expected to be close to $3 billion will be spread over four years.
In the event that the ‘20 season is shortened or otherwise impacted by the pandemic, players who were set to make guaranteed money will still get their full amount guaranteed. However, they may have to wait to get that money in the years to come, as teams will not be obligated to fork that money over this season.
Plans for both high-risk candidates and voluntary opt-outs have also been agreed upon between the league and the players, with each scenario being divided into two separate tiers which will receive two separate levels of salary.
High-risk candidates will receive a $350,000 stipend and their contract will carry over to the following season, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Voluntary opt-outs will receive a $150,000 salary advance and their contract will carry over as well. Opt-outs are due within seven days of the deal being finalized.
Goodell also stated that the league has committed to providing a safe environment for its players, team personnel and fans.
“These plans have been guided by the medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA and have been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical and public health experts, including the CDC, and many state and local public health officials,” read the commissioner’s statement. “The season will undoubtedly present new and additional challenges, but we are committed to playing a safe and complete 2020 season, culminating with the Super Bowl.”
The newly agreed upon CBA also includes a ramp-up period of nearly three weeks, which the players had sought. August 3-11 will include mostly strength and conditioning practices, while fully padded practices won’t begin until August 17.
Rosters must be set at 80 by August 16, however teams can remain at 90 players until that time. With that being said, only 80 players will be permitted inside the team facility at a given time, with 16-man groups being the maximum allowed during team activities.
In addition, the league has also instituted guidelines prohibiting certain off-field activities, including attending bars, hosting or attending indoor parties and concerts where more than 15 people will be present, along with indoor church services that exceed 25 percent capacity.
The NFL seems dedicated to beginning its season on time as well as completing it to its entirety. Whether or not those two goals can be achieved remains to be seen, but this newly approved CBA is the last major step needed to ensure that the league and its players will be diving into the season hand in hand.