It will be only a matter of days before NFL players are asked to vote on the new collective bargaining agreement that’s already been ratified by league owners and the players’ union representatives.
Like with all union contract negotiations, some of the members will approve of it and some will not. And that certainly seems the case in the NFL.
What makes this situation different is it appears the ones steadfastly opposed are the guys who make the big money, like Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt and Russell Wilson. They have been outspoken on social media in their disapproval of the terms laid out in the CBA and have been urging membership to reject it.
But there seems to be an entire subsection of the NFLPA that’s in favor of approval. And those are the guys who aren’t making a lot of cash, who would benefit the most from the added income the CBA will provide them.
This caste system was confirmed earlier this week by New York Giants left tackle Nate Solder, the team’s player representative. He told NBCSports.com there seems to be a disconnect between the haves and have nots.
“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.”
Solder told the website he will be voting for ratification because he feels the deal is extremely beneficial to the players. And Solder is 100 percent correct. The new CBA will create a financial windfall for the players over its 10-year run. The increased revenue is the owner’s way of compensating the players for the addition of a 17th regular season game (in time for the 2021 season) and the expansion of the playoffs to include two more teams.
Players stand to receive more than the current 48.5 percent in league revenues over the life of the deal. That would translate to an additional $3 to $5 billion increase over the next decade.
If you are wondering why guys like Rodgers and Watt seem to be opposed, it’s because they feel a 17th game would expose membership to more injuries and is just being added to help compensate for the salary increases.
Rodgers, the Packers player representative, said his no vote is based off conversations he’s had with his teammates.
That seems to us like a bogus excuse. Does anyone believe the addition of just one game would exponentially expose the players to more harm? What would make a 17th game any different than the 15th or 16th? It’s a ridiculous premise.
Solder understands the league’s high-profile players have a larger following on social media, which would allow them to have more influence on the opinions of the lesser players and fans. He does not believe that is fair.
“Some players have fallen victim to the thought if we turn this down, we’ll get something better. We might, but we might not,” Solder said. “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, who has already made almost $71 million is his 10-year career, laid out what he believes some of the benefits of the new CBA are.
“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,” Solder said.
NFL player representatives have already given the new CBA their blessing, voting 17-14-1 last week to ratify it. A simple majority of the players is required for it to be approved.
The point Solder is trying to make was laid out last week by DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, in an interview with the media at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Smith pointed out the league’s core players, who make the league minimum, will be aided by the new deal. Minimum base salaries will increase by $100,000 beginning this season. Players who make more than $4.25 million will get a game check for playing the 17th game instead of having their weekly pay limited to $250,000.
This seems like it would be a wonderful new deal for the players. And if the owners need to play a 17th regular season game to help pay for, then so be it.