Are you ready for more football? Players approve 17-game season in CBA

DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA. Credit: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports.
DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA. Credit: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports.

Are you ready for some football? It’s a 17-game party!

On Sunday morning, the NFL Players Association announced that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been approved by the players in a narrow 1,019-959 vote, which may come as a surprise to some.

The surprise in seeing it passed comes after Chris Harris Jr., Dalton Risner and Derek Wolfe all said they would vote “No” on the CBA and encouraged fellow players to follow suit via Twitter.

However, now that is has passed, what does it mean for the players and for fans?

17-game regular season

The biggest takeaway is this: 17-game regular seasons from now on. Some will argue the change in season length will alter single-season records — which it will do — but remember back in the day, it was 12 games, then 14 and then 16. So, starting in 2021, the NFL will be 18 weeks long — see: still one bye week — with 17 regular-season games.

Shorter preseason

The new CBA also clarifies that no club shall play more than 20 regular and preseason games. That means the preseason will now be changed from four games down to three. Along with the longer regular season, a shorter preseason is a change nearly all fans can agree is a great idea.

Expanded field for playoffs

Starting as soon as 2020, the NFL will institute seven playoff teams per conference, upping from their current number of six per side. That’s an increase from 12 total playoff teams (37.5 percent) to 14 (43.8 percent) who will now make the postseason.

For fans, that can either be an added bonus or a downside, depending on how one looks at it. More teams means it’s less prestigious to make the playoffs and it’s easier to do so. However, it will likely add to the intrigue and interest as the season winds down for the multiple teams fighting for that last spot.

Because there are now seven playoff teams per conference, it also means only the No. 1 seed gets a bye in the Wildcard Round. The No. 2 seed will now host the No. 7 seed, with 6 playing 3 and teams 4 and 5 facing one another. That seemingly makes it even more unbalanced toward the No. 1 seed, giving them valuable rest after a longer than usual regular season.

Uninterrupted football through 2030

Maybe the best part of this CBA for fans is the fact they won’t have to worry about a lockout or other labor unrest for a decade. This new agreement goes through the year 2030.

How does it benefit the players?

Larger rosters

Active rosters will now balloon from 53 players to 55, likely in response to a longer season. The gameday rosters will also increase from 46 to 48 players. Practice squads are now 12 players and will increase to 14 players starting in 2022.

Slightly more revenue

This new CBA will take revenue sharing from 47% in 2020 to 48% in 2021, and players can increase that to 48.5% (or higher) thanks to media kickers. However, is that slight raise in revenue worth playing an extra regular-season game every year?

Less stringent THC testing

Players will now not be suspended just for testing positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They also will be tested in a shorter window (from four months to the two weeks before training camp) and the limits have been raised (from 35 nanograms to 150).

This is a great move for players and the league for a few reasons. First and foremost, marijuana can be used for pain and is a safer alternative to opioids. Secondly, it reflects the changing values across the country as more and more states embrace legal recreational marijuana for adults.

Minimum salaries increased, one franchise tag

A few more salary-related issues which help players are included, too. League minimums increased across the board for players, which is a positive, definitely. And, teams can now only franchise tag one player. Tagging a player keeps him from testing free agency and ties him to that team, meaning it’s a leverage tactic which benefits teams.

Now that the CBA has been voted on and approved, look for the league year to be impacted by the ongoing pandemic. While free agency is set to begin on Wednesday, many are expecting it to be pushed back. Stay tuned on that front.

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