Last week, the league’s owners sent their first proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement to the NFL Players Association. On Friday, player representatives from all 32 teams discussed the document on a conference call, but did not vote on it yet. Instead, the discussion was tabled for the time being with additional face-to-face talks between the NFLPA and the league’s management council following on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
This unclear CBA situation has now led to a change in the league’s operating schedule. As first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NFL and the NFLPA have jointly decided to push the franchise tag window back a couple of days. Previously, teams would have been able to apply two of the three different tags between February 25 and March 10. Now, this window opens two days later, on February 27, and will not be shut until March 12.
Moving the franchise tag window by two days buys the negotiators on both sides, and the NFLPA as a whole, additional time to come up with a potential solution and new CBA. After all, the franchise tag period beginning without clear rules in place beyond the 2020 season would create a difficult atmosphere for some teams — especially those that are operating with comparatively limited salary cap space such as the New England Patriots.
If the team wanted to tag two of its players — as noted above, the last year of the CBA allows for teams to use both the transition and one of the two franchise tags this year — it would need to add to its currently projected $29.07 million in salary cap space. The available options look differently without a CBA in place for 2021 and beyond, however, as the Patriots would be limited when it comes to restructuring player contracts.
In order to ensure a fair playing field for all teams, therefore, a clear set of rules is necessary. Whether this means a new CBA altogether, or simply a framework to govern a transitional period, remains to be seen. The franchise tag window, however, now becomes the first date on the league’s offseason calendar to be altered due to the unclear labor situation.