While the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is not due to end until after the 2020 season, it would appear that league officials have already begun preliminary discussions with their counterparts from the NFLPA.
As per a report by Kevin Draper and Ken Belson of the New York Times on Tuesday, NFL executives initiated conversations with the players union last month, holding two meetings that were surprisingly characterized as amicable given the animosity that has been evident between the two sides as of late.
Hoping to avoid the 136-day lockout that accompanied the last CBA negotiations in 2011, the earlier a deal can be agreed the better for all concerned. However, with NFLPA president Eric Winston actively still telling the players to prepare for a lockout as recently as February, those involved in these initial discussions understand that there is still plenty of work to be done at this stage. As New York Giants owner John Mara noted when talking to Jarrett Bell of USA Today last week.
“We’ve got a long way to go. There’s a willingness on both sides to have continued conversation.”
According to The New York Times report, the first meeting between the two sides was a chance for each party to lay out the goals they hope to achieve with the next CBA, with the players looking for an increase in their share of league revenue that currently pays them around 48 percent of the total.
Faced with re-negotiating their media contracts with their broadcast partners in 2022, the sooner the NFL can agree a long term deal with the NFLPA, the stronger their position will be in those negotiations in the minds of league officials. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell among those hoping for a quick resolution with the players union.
“I do hope it is sooner rather than later. I think there is great value to all parties, and most importantly our fans, that we get this issue resolved and move forward.”
With the NFLPA apparently also looking to agree a deal before Winston’s term as president ends in March of 2021, both sides have their own incentives to get an agreement done quickly. But with issues like marijuana, increasing minimum salaries and performance based bonuses expected to be sticking points for the players, while teams look for increased practice time and more mandatory training session, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. And as cordial as the discussions are right now, it would not be a surprise if past hostilities rear their head once again when negotiations begin to bog down.