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NFL imposes deadline for NFLPA to vote on 17-game schedule

Until players are willing to go on strike, it’s hard to see them getting a much better offer than what’s probably out there.

Commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell and Director of the National Football League Players’ Association, DeMaurice Smith pose with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement on the front steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 5, 2011 in Canton, Ohio. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Bud Lite

The National Football League’s current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in March of 2021, and the NFL and NFL Players’ Association have been hard at work on negotiations in recent months. Negotiators met again during the lead up to Super Bowl 54, and key deadlines are starting to develop as both sides try to complete a deal.

The NFL is proposing a 17-week regular season that would also potentially result in 14 playoff teams instead of 12. ESPN is reporting the offer raises players’ share of league revenue from 47% to 48.5%, with the possibility of more if the owners expand the regular season to 17 games.

ESPN is reporting the NFLPA will meet in LA on Thursday to discuss the NFL’s proposal. The league has reportedly given the players a “rough deadline” of March 18th (the start of the 2020 league year) to get a deal done. ESPN is reporting that if a deal is not done by then, “negotiations are likely to be tabled indefinitely.”

This brings us to the first real deadline we’ve heard in this negotiation. It appears the NFL is saying this is make or break and this is the best offer the NFLPA is going to get. Of course, negotiations are all about who has leverage and it’s in the best interests of the league to have players thinking they aren’t going to do better without a major work stoppage.

To get closer to fully guaranteed contracts, or an even greater percentage of revenue, or even better long-term health care financing, the players are going to have to be willing to miss a not insignificant number of pay checks. There’s nothing yet to indicate a majority of NFL players are willing to walk out and miss pay checks for an extended period. As long as the players are not willing to show a sign of that willingness, and as long as the owners can assume that, the players will not have much of any leverage. That could mean a deal gets done sooner rather than later, but it likely won’t be nearly as much of an improvement as players might want.