Union approves new collective-bargaining agreement; NFL labor peace through 2030
The deal clears the way for an extra playoff team starting in 2020 — the No. 1 seed in each conference will be the only one to get a postseason bye — and a 17-game regular season as soon as 2021.
The Bears will compete for an added playoff spot starting this season. They’ll play an extra regular-season game as soon as 2021. And they’ll bask in labor peace through 2030 after the NFL Players Association announced Sunday that its members ratified the proposed collective-bargaining agreement.
The vote, which closed Saturday night, was close. Needing a simple majority, the CBA passed by a vote of 1,019-959.
The CBA will increase roster size — and those eligible on game day — by two players. Practice squads will grow. The preseason will shrink to three games, with each team having a week free of games before Week 1 of the regular season.
Players will receive 48 percent of total revenue, up from 47 percent. That number can increase to 48.5 percent, depending on media-rights deals.
The 2020 salary cap is rising to $198.2 million, an increase of $10 million. That gives the Bears $21.1 million in cap space, according to Spotrac.com, entering the legal tampering period Monday. Free-agent contracts officially can be signed Wednesday after the league declined to enact delays because of the coronavirus.
For the Bears, it’s what’s not in the CBA that increases the chances they’ll pick up their 2021 option on quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s contract by the May deadline. Under terms of the old and new CBAs, Trubisky’s option is guaranteed only for injury, meaning the Bears still cut can him after 2020 as long as he can pass a physical.
The new CBA changes that rule for players drafted a year after Trubisky. Their fifth-year options will be fully guaranteed if teams exercise them.
The added playoff spot — each conference now will award one postseason bye instead of two — should hit close to home for the Bears. If the NFC had a seventh playoff spot in the last decade, the Bears would have reached the postseason in 2011 and 2012 — and possibly saved former coach Lovie Smith’s job.
In a statement, commissioner Roger Goodell said he was ‘‘pleased’’ by the vote, 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.’’
The NFLPA had delayed the vote twice in the last month. Many NFL stars, including J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and others, opposed the deal on social media. Many found it disingenuous that owners, who said player safety was a priority, were able to add an extra game — and an extra opportunity to be injured.
Bears receiver Allen Robinson told the ‘‘Waddle and Silvy’’ show Friday on ESPN 1000 that he voted against the CBA because the 17th game increases the chance of injury. He said that once the league added a 17th game, it never would been taken away. On social media Sunday, he said player votes were swayed by fear.
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan was more coy Friday, joking that it was none of reporters’ business how he voted. He hinted that 17 games weren’t a big deal, though.
‘‘If we go to the playoffs, we’re gonna play 17 games anyway,’’ he said.
At the NFL Scouting Combine last month, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith sounded confident the deal would pass. One reason is because the deal gives a $100,000 raise to players on minimum salary. Smith said 60 percent of players fall into that category.
The economic climate for owners looks much different now than it did in mid-February, when they approved the CBA and sent it to the players. At the time, they wanted to settle the CBA a year before it expired, so they could move on to negotiating TV rights. It’s unclear what affect the coronavirus and the associated economic downturn will have on those talks.