NFL players have approved a new collective bargaining agreement with owners, which is both good news and bad news — good in that the Bears will have more money to spend in free agency this year and bad in that general manager Ryan Pace will be doing the spending.
The important thing to remember during these chaotic, virus-dominated times is to keep calm and keep making fun of the Bears.
It was nice to have a hint of normalcy Sunday, even if it came off the field and the only score being kept involved votes. The new CBA will expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games, perhaps as soon as the 2021 season. It means players will make more money and more players will get injured. That tradeoff almost surely was the reason the vote was so close — 1,019-959.
The ratification also means that the Bears’ cap space will increase by about $10 million this year, but so will every other team’s. The extra money could allow the Bears to bid on players they wouldn’t have realistically been able to under their previous cap limitations. They would, theoretically, have more to offer a Teddy Bridgewater (OK, a Case Keenum), but I have my doubts that they really want to sign a quarterback to compete with Mitch Trubisky. Alas, there’s nothing in the CBA that deals with the problem of a general manager who hijacks a team’s fortunes with a risky draft pick.
(To the gentleman who emailed me Sunday asking whether my “obsession’’ with Bears quarterbacks [Trubisky, Jay Cutler] has to do with my losing a girlfriend in high school to the star quarterback: Yes, that’s exactly what happened.)
For fans, the best news is that there will be labor peace until 2030, the length of the new agreement. And when it comes down to it, that’s what most people care about. They just want to watch games. There are some nice details in the ratified CBA — minimum salaries will increase by about 20 percent and players’ share of all league revenue will increase from 47 percent to 48 percent starting in 2021 — but does anyone outside of the players, family members, agents and owners really care about any of that? Just tell fans how much the ticket-price increase will be so they can put their hands up against the wall and have their pockets rifled through.
The Bears have made the postseason only eight times in the past 30 years, but suddenly there is some hope. Under the new CBA, the number of playoff teams per conference will increase from six to seven. That will either help the Bears see the playoffs more often or it will be a further reminder that the franchise is fundamentally adrift.
There’s at least one feature of the new deal that shows the NFL acting like an adult, which it doesn’t often do. The league no longer will suspend players for testing positive for marijuana. Pot is legal in 11 states, including Illinois, and legal for medical use in 33 states. Although marijuana is illegal at the federal level, even the stuffy NFL saw the ridiculousness of punishing players for something that millions of people can now do legally. The league will continue to test players for marijuana, but those who test positive will be evaluated for possible treatment. As I said, an adult approach.
At least there was some positive news Sunday at a time when everything seems so dark. There will be labor peace. And the league year will open as scheduled at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Hopefully, the coronavirus will have moved on by September and the damage will be minimal.
Other sports have been impacted enormously. Baseball will certainly see its schedule cut as a response to the pandemic. We’ve already seen the NCAA cancel March Madness and the NBA suspend its regular season indefinitely. And so on.
We need normalcy, the old kind, even if it comes in small doses. So, yes, a collective bargaining agreement. Something as dry as a contract between rich owners and rich players. We’ll take it, gladly, because it reminds us of what life used to be like, even two weeks ago. It gives us hope that normal will return someday.
In that spirit, what are the Bears going to do about their gaping hole at tight end? Maybe we should ask the smart guy who drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the 2017 draft. There, that feels better. Just like the old days.