The very latest on the NFL/NFLPA CBA: How will it impact the 2020 season and beyond?

With the new league year fast approaching, Tony Pauline provides the latest details about the current CBA negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA, including how these ongoing talks are impacting teams' plans in the 2020 offseason.

In the latest episode of our NFL Draft Insiders podcast, PFN Insider Tony Pauline updated us with the latest on what he’s hearing regarding the NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations.

As you may recall, Pauline had reported several weeks ago that the two sides were talking, and the hope was that the major framework of the CBA would be in place by the Super Bowl. From there, the hope was that a deal would be agreed to by the end of the NFL Scouting Combine. And now, with the Combine less than a week away, what’s is the latest on negotiations?

You can listen to the conversation here beginning at the 02:30 mark. We’ve also included the podcast player at the end of this article and have transcribed most of the details below.

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The NFLPA is taking a measured approach to the process

To begin, Pauline says that he hasn’t had anyone from the NFLPA tell him that they are optimistic about this deal. Instead, there’s some pessimism and there’s also some who are taking a wait-and-see approach. Players and representatives want to make sure everything they have talked about and verbally agreed upon is in the final proposal. But already, there are a few important issues that haven’t been addressed by the NFL.

“I’ve heard from people who are familiar with the situation that there were a few highly coveted issues that the NFLPA and players wanted in the proposal that the league has seemingly left out,” said Pauline. “That said, in contract negotiations, it’s very rare that both sides are really happy, and they usually come to an agreement and middle ground. But the sense that I’m getting from people in the know is that they are not overly happy with the initial proposal from the league.”

Are the players looking for veteran guarantees?

Pauline was told that one specific item players were hoping for was veteran guarantees, which includes salary and other incentives. But, according to what Pauline has heard, players don’t think the proposal that was sent over gives more guarantees than what they’ve seen in the past from the league. However, he doesn’t think that it will be a major sticking point when it’s all said and done.

“People in the know have told me that demanding more guarantees may actually hurt some of the veterans, especially second and third-tier veterans,” said Pauline. “Think about it – if it’s a matter of giving a third-tier veteran a guarantee that’s going to pay him $3 or $4 million dollars over the course of three years vs. keeping a seventh-round pick who may be making $300,000/year or whatever the minimum is – or keeping an undrafted free agent, who is making a tenth of what a third-tier veteran might be making – then you’re going to see a lot of these third-tier veterans who will be out of a job…there is some fear that sticking to more guarantees may end up hurting them in the long-run, especially when guys starting losing their jobs to younger and cheaper players.”

Why is there a sense of urgency to get the CBA deal done?

In Pauline’s original report weeks ago, he noted that there was an urgency to get a deal done. And as the time has gone by, Pauline has found out more information regarding this.

Pauline reported that from the NFLPA point of view, it comes down to Eric Winston, president of the NFLPA. That’s because his term is done at the start of the league year and it’s expected that they will bring in someone new to replace him. Pauline has been told by several people that the new person who replaces Winston may not want the same things that Winston wanted. That means that negotiations could start from nothing again.

“I thought that was strange, but there were multiple people who have been in the league for a while who told me that this is a possibility,” said Pauline. “Eric Winston is gone, his replacement comes in and rips everything up and says, ‘we don’t want this, we are starting over again.’ There is a sense of urgency from the NFLPA side to get this deal done before the start of the new league year while Winston is still in charge.”

As far as the league is concerned, Pauline is told that the quicker they get something done, the quicker they can begin preparing for a 17-game season. This, of course, means additional television revenue from the networks, which the owners will want to see sooner rather than later.

When would they begin the 17-game schedule?

If the two sides come to an agreement before the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, Pauline is told the earliest the 17-game season would go into effect would be the 2021 season, and it may be even pushed back a year to 2022. The owners will want it sooner and the players will probably want it later because there’s already been some pushback from the players because of the wear and tear on their bodies.

Related: NFL CBA Negotiations: Unpacking the key points of a 17-game schedule

Additionally, Pauline has noted and re-affirmed on the podcast that if the 17-game season is part of the deal, it would more than likely mean the Super Bowl will take place on President’s Day Weekend. This, of course, will result in a three-day weekend for much of the working class in the United States.

Would there be any immediate impact felt around the league?

If there’s an immediate impact, it will be with the salary cap. Pauline is told that the 2020 salary cap will be set close to (if not at) $200 million this year, compared to $188.2 million during the 2019 season. There is some belief that if they come to an agreement, the salary cap will likely increase to over $200 million for this coming season.

And Pauline says that this has led to strategic planning by front offices around the league. Pauline notes that usually at this time of the year, we hear about players getting their contracts re-structured. However, general managers around the league are taking a wait-and-see approach to see what happens in negotiations.

If a deal is agreed to before the new league year, there may be no need to restructure veteran contracts because of the extra salary cap money they will see. And if there isn’t a new deal, Pauline says that front offices will work furiously to restructure the contracts they had been targeting.

What can we expect in the final CBA deal?

Pauline says that while he doesn’t know if a deal will get done before the new league year, he did say that many believe the owners are going to get what they want. This means that they are going to send their final proposal to the NFLPA and if they don’t accept it, the next proposal will have fewer incentives and money attached to it.

Pauline also notes that if there is no deal when the current CBA expires in 2021, the owners will not take extreme action and lock the players out. Instead, they’ll keep the doors open and force the players to strike.

Be sure to stay with Pro Football Network for all of the latest on the CBA deal, free agency news, and NFL Draft rumors. Follow Pauline on Twitter: @TonyPauline along with Pro Football Network: @PFN365.

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