Whether you like it or not, the world of sports will be unavailable for the foreseeable future due to all of the coronavirus concerns and quarantines occurring all across the world. However, the idea that the NFL is still going to continue its offseason just like it normally would, with just a few alterations to it, is still on track, and it has been pushed forward with the ratification of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
For the next ten years (until 2030), the NFL and its players are locked into an agreement that will make sure that playing the game of football will commence, or that it will not be stopped due to any sort of grievances. While outside circumstances may dictate when the new league begins, the fact of the matter is that players and franchises have come to an agreement, even though it was far from unanimous.
60 votes separated the ‘Yes’ group from the ‘No’ group for the CBA vote, falling 1019 to 959, creating a sobering reality that shows that while players were not even close to being fully on board with the new proposal, the current circumstances dictated that it be passed. While that is not the best way to obviously carry this process out, it may have been a huge determining factor in what concessions were agreed upon and which ones were determined to not matter as much.
For the Green Bay Packers specifically, the new CBA provides a bit of clarity for their cap sheet and roster breakdown going into the start of the new league year, which is projected to be starting up on this upcoming Wednesday, March 18.
The salary cap for 2020 is going to be $198.2 million, and combined with the newly-implemented CBA, that will actually limit the amount of room that the Packers will have to spend on free agents, mostly due to certain elements of the CBA. This amount, just north of $198M, is exactly $10 million more than what the cap amount was in 2019, which is close to the same interval that it has been climbing for the last five seasons.
Tom Pelissero detailed out what the breakdown of the costs are on Twitter, listing that the total cost of players to the team will be $242.9 million, with $44.7 million of that amount being strictly for performance-based pay and benefits. That performance-based pay is all about ensuring that players on rookie-level pay scale contracts see competent growths in their year-by-year salaries based on their performances, which will impact a bunch of players, specifically both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
Cap expert and Packer shareholder Ken Ingalls lined out each important aspect of the determined cap in a spreadsheet on Twitter, which actually shows that even with the cap increase of $10 million, the amount of spendable cash that Green Bay has on hand, with their current roster set-up, decreased by around $5M, due to the performance escalators, greater practice squad sizes, and the increase in minimum salaries.
Estimations for the 2020 cap were a bit north of $200M, so with the number falling below that, it crunches a few aspects that teams get to work with. But, with the player revenue share increase one percent from 47 up to 48, the salary caps are going to spike considerably moving forward, providing the capabilities for teams to back-load any free agency and extension deals, when the potential for dead money on the books will hurt less.
For instance, GB could decide to expedite contract extensions with the player that needs it the most on the team, DT Kenny Clark, and could choose to use the back-end cap space to help push back money and make it a smaller sliver of the entire pie. Or, GB could want to get more cap space for right now and add onto that around $5M amount, and they could convert a player like Za’Darius Smith’s ‘20 roster bonus, which comes in at $9M, into a signing bonus, which would be paid out upfront to Smith but it would be able to be stretched out over five seasons in the signing bonus category, helping add around $6M total to the cap space for GB.
Players like Clark, Davante Adams (up after ‘21 season), David Bakhtiari (up after ‘20), Jaire Alexander (after ‘21), and others will be in need of new deals in the coming few years, something that GB can now put underneath the cap a bit easier by structuring it specifically to work better underneath the current cap structure. Players like Lane Taylor and Jimmy Graham, who are already or could potentially be cap casualties this offseason, would provide the team with more spending power to upgrade some weak positions if cut or traded from the team.
Outside of the money changes, the season and playoff slate will officially be altered too, which looks to be highly beneficial of the franchises and owners and less so of the players.
The 2020 season, whenever it will begin, is still slated to only have 4 preseason and 16 regular-season games, per usual, but with a twist – a seventh team added into the postseason in the form of another Wild Card. There also will only be one seed that receives a bye in the NFC and AFC, the no. 1 overall seed in each conference, making for two more games to be played on Wild Card weekend, one more per conference.
The seeding breakdown is pretty straightforward – the #2 plays the #7 team, #3 and #6, and then #4 and #5 face off. Adding this extra team into the fold for the postseason is a precursor of what is to come for the regular season, which could occur as soon as in 2021 or as late as in 2023.
The new CBA was created with the expansion of a 17th regular-season game in mind (which would take the place of the fourth preseason game), but it is not a foregone conclusion that it will be implemented. The league has between the 2021 and 2023 seasons to enact its implementation, which would extend the season by one whole week, but not tack on another bye week to make up for the addition.
For a team to win the Super Bowl, it will have played three preseason games, 17 regular-season games, and depending on what seed they were in the postseason, up to four postseason games (including the Super Bowl). The uptick in games, which could total out to be 24, could produce a worn-down product of football that may not rival the kind of competitiveness that was produced in previous seasons.
While I am not an expert by any means for what the new CBA provides, it is quite clear to me that even though there were improvements made for certain groups (minimum-contract players, owners, etc.), other groups and elements (superstars, retired players, player health & safety) suffered in this agreement.
The easy takeaway, however, from all of this is evident – everyone needs the sport of football and the NFL to carry on with the vast majority of its offseason activities (free agency, drafts, contract extensions, etc.) to help get everyone through the ongoing crisis.
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23