One of the biggest stories to come out of the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis was not related to the on-field workouts, but rather the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations between the league’s owners and its players association. Following a meeting between the two sides last Tuesday, the NFLPA voted to send the proposed CBA to the entire membership for a vote that could ratify the new labor deal with a simple majority.
The proposal was not met with universal agreement on the players’ side, however, as big-name veterans such as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman publicly voiced their displeasure with the deal. But despite the backlash, there still appears to be a good chance that the 2,000+ members of the NFLPA decide in favor of the new CBA when the yet to be scheduled vote takes place.
Why would they do that considering that it includes among other changes a 17th regular season game as well as an increased (some may say “watered-down”) playoff field? Long-time New England Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder, who is currently serving as the New York Giants’ player representative, recently talked to NBC Sports’ Peter King about the labor negotiations and explained why he sees the proposal as a “great deal for the core players.”
“Minimum salaries would go up significantly, with bumped-up benefits for current players and retired players. We’d increase the practice squad. Work rules would improve. I don’t think it’s perfect, but we’re making incremental gains on player health and safety,” said Solder. “Some players have fallen victim to the thought if we turn this down, we’ll get something better. We might, but we might not.”
“You have a couple of guys on Twitter who have millions of followers criticizing the deal. Other guys who support it might have 5,000 followers. Their voices aren’t loud. In some ways, I’m trying to be a voice for the voiceless,” he continued. “I’ve asked at least 15 guys on our team, mostly minimum-salary guys or close to that, this question: ‘If you were able to make more money and get better benefits in exchange for a 17th game, would you do it?’ Everyone said yes.”
Solder is on the other end of the spectrum than the players he talked to. After entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2011, Solder signed a two-year extension with the team four years later. In 2018, he left New England in free agency when he agreed to a record-breaking four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants. All in all, the 31-year-old has earned more than $71 million since joining the league nine years ago.
Solder is among a group that may not necessarily gain as much from a new CBA as lower-tier players, but he still pointed out that he would be on board: “I respect democracy, and I respect the process. The reps are passionate about doing the best for the players. A lot of guys have a fighter’s mentality to get the best deal for the most players. I respect that. But I would rather take the deal that’s presented here than put everyone in danger of not getting a deal.”