Analysis: the NFL proposal for the "enhanced season"

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Note: Tuesday we will have a projection of the NBA Draft

I have some good news and some bad news about a possible CBA. For the first time in 4 months, the NFL management council reps met with DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA team yesterday. The proposal that the NFL put on the table is an 18 game regular season that would eliminate 2 preseason games.

On the league side, the preseason games are very profitable. The teams generally require season ticket buyers to also pay full price for the 2 preseason games in their stadium. That has been a bone of contention between the Union and the league for several negotiation cycles. The last agreement solved the problem when the union won a percentage of TOTAL REVENUE in the last CBA.

NFL players currently get a “daily stipend” for their work in the preseason. Under the NFL proposal they would get full salary shares for the 2 games that become part of the regular season. That would add 12.5% of their salary to their gross pay. With the addition to individual players pay, the league is hoping that the players will accept a lower total percentage of revenues. That sounds good. However, as is usually the case with big money deals, things are not that simple.

The addition of 2 regular season games would change the nature of the late season. In the preseason, the starters play a maximum of 3/4ths of a game. Most play only 1/2 of the 3rd game of the preseason. The new “enhanced” season would require them to play 8 extra quarters because they would still play the same amount of preseason snaps to get down their timing.

The league has estimated that the 2 extra regular-season games would require the expansion of rosters to 55 from 53. I have done some analysis that indicates a roster of 60 would be required but no one can say for sure.

What we do know for sure is that the elimination of 2 preseason games would reduce the chance for rookies and young players to improve and to prove their value to the team. The NFL needs to find out which rookie or young players will stick and which need to be cut. The result will be a lot more physical practices and a couple of “controlled scrimmages” to replace the preseason games that are eliminated by the proposal. While the league will not comment on this fact, the NFLPA is very much aware of the extra risk to players.

It is not a coincidence that the union has become more sensitive to the “intensity and tempo of drills.” As a result, several teams this year have lost OTA sessions because they violated the guidelines for those practices. The Union warned the players about the OTAs and reminded them to report any possible violations. That indicates that the Union doesn’t view the “enhanced” season as a positive step.

The Bottom Line:

The Union is not going to look on this proposal warmly. It does give the players a reason to vote for the plan but the NFL is going to have to add 7 not 2 players to each team to get the Union to recommend approval to the members. Without that “seal of approval” the membership would not likely support a new CBA.

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