DENVER -- After several weeks of intense discussions and negotiations, the NFLPA approved a new collective bargaining agreement Sunday, guaranteeing 11 more years of labor peace between the players and owners.
The new deal passed by a thin margin: 1,019-959 majority vote. All ballots were due last night by 10 p.m. and officially tabulated Sunday morning. The new deal begins with the upcoming 2020 season and runs through 2030.
It includes several notable changes:
-- 17-game regular season and a three-game preseason beginning in 2021.
--14 playoff teams, an expansion of one per conference. Only one team in each conference receives bye. This is expected to start in 2020.
--Player revenue sharing increases from 47 percent to 48.5 percent in seasons when the 17th game is played.
--Elimination of suspensions for positive tests for THC, and shrinking the testing window to two weeks prior to training camp.
--Increase in minimum salaries for rookies from $510,000 to $610,000 and performance-based pay.
--Pactice squad goes from 10 players to 12 this year and 14 in 2022.
--Training camp practices in pads reduces from 28 to 16, and will be capped at 2.5 hours.
Broncos kicker Brandon McManus served as the team's player representative. He voted no, but recognized it would come down to a thin margin.
"I knew it was going to be a close yes. A lot of the no's simply didn't like the added 17th game at all and didn't think there were enough player safety changes to make it worthwhile," McManus told Denver7.
I asked McManus if he felt like the global spread of the coronavirus, and the subsequent financial ramifications, swayed the vote.
"I think a lot of votes were in before the recent coronavirus crisis here in the U.S. But saw the vote was the difference of 60, so I am sure the last two days impacted the last couple of votes which may have swung it either way," he said.
The NFLPA released a statement following the announced results, reading in part, "The result comes after a long and democratic process in accordance with our constitution."
Commissioner Roger Goodell commented through a statement as well.
"We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football," Goodell said. "We appreciate the tireless efforts of the members of the Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA leadership, both of whom devoted nearly a year to detailed, good faith negotiations to reach this comprehensive, transformative agreement. "
Several high profile players spoke out against the new CBA in recent weeks, among them Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Seahawks star Russell Wilson and Texans defensive end J.J Watt. However, former CU standout and current New York Giants tackle Nate Solder voted yes, and explained why last week.
"Minimum salaries would go up significantly, with bumped-up benefits for current players and retired players. We'd increase the practice squad (from 10 to 14 by 2022). Work rules would improve. I don't think it's perfect, but we're making incremental gains on player health and safety. Some players have fallen victim to the thought if we turn this down, we'll get something better. We might, but we might not. You have a couple of guys on Twitter who have millions of followers criticizing the deal. Other guys who support it might have 5,000 followers. Their voices aren't loud. In some ways, I'm trying to be a voice for the voiceless," Solder said to NBCSports.com.
"I've asked at least 15 guys on our team, mostly minimum-salary guys or close to that, this question: 'If you were able to make more money and get better benefits in exchange for a 17th game, would you do it?' Everyone said yes," Solder told the website. "I respect democracy, and I respect the process. The reps are passionate about doing the best for the players. A lot of guys have a fighter's mentality to get the best deal for the most players. I respect that. But I would rather take the deal that's presented here than put everyone in danger of not getting a deal."
The player reps voted 17-14-1 last week to approve the 10-year agreement with the league. McManus voted no after much consideration. Several veteran players were not happy with the addition of the 17th game as it related player safety measures and their yearly salaries. Per reports, the salary cap for 2020 will increase to $198.2 million, but teams cannot use the franchise tag and transition tag this year, which could impact teams like the Cowboys, with quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper, and Titans, with running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
"Our members have spoken. We pick up a greater share of revenues, make significant gains to minimum salaries and increase our post-career benefits," said new union president JC Tretter. "For players past, this deal reaches back in an unprecedented way to increase pensions, benefits and makes resources available to them. We understand that not all deals are perfect, and we don't take the gains we wanted, but couldn't get, lightly. We now must unite and move forward as a union."