NFL Players Approve New CBA By Narrow Margin; Here’s What That Means

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NFL players voted Sunday to approve the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, triggering a decade of labor peace.

The vote passed by a narrow majority, with 1,019 of the 1,978 voters (51.5 percent) voting “Yes” and 959 voting “No,” according to the NFL Players Association.

“This result comes after a long and democratic process in accordance with our constitution,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “An independent auditor received submitted ballots through a secure electronic platform, then verified, tallied and certified the results.”

Headlining the terms of the new CBA, which runs through the 2030 season, are the implementation of a 14-team playoff field (seven per conference, with only the No. 1 seeds receiving first-round byes) this season and a switch to a 17-game regular-season schedule in 2021 at the earliest. The deal also places increased restrictions on training camp and practice time, raises minimum salaries for players, ups the players’ revenue share from 47 percent to 48.5 percent, adds roster and practice squad spots and limits drug testing.

Had the CBA not been ratified before the start of the new league year, teams would have been forced to comply with more stringent salary cap regulations when signing players this offseason, making it more difficult for a team like the New England Patriots to re-sign a big-money player like quarterback Tom Brady. Sunday’s ratification removes those restrictions and allows teams to operate as usual, permitting them to utilize workarounds like the inclusion of voidable contract years that would lower a player’s 2020 cap hit.

CBA uncertainty had caused some teams to delay contract negotiations with their own free agents.

Brady, who is set to hit unrestricted free agency this week, applauded NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith for assisting in the CBA’s approval.

The NFL’s legal tampering period — during which teams can begin negotiating with impending free agents from other clubs — currently is set to begin at noon ET on Monday, with free agency officially opening at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The league said this week it plans to stay on schedule, but multiple reports have indicated it could push these dates back amid the COVID-19 pandemic that already has prompted the suspension of nearly every major sports league.

The NFL on Friday banned pre-draft travel for all 32 teams and prohibited draft prospects from visiting team facilities.

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