While New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady steals most of the headlines these days, the NFL is also in the middle of labor negotiations that will likely shape pro football for years to come. On Thursday, a big step was taken in these talks between the league’s ownership and its players: as first reported by ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the NFLPA sent out the proposed collective bargaining agreement to its membership for a potentially ratifying vote.
The voting process started at 9:00 a.m. ET, with ballots being open for one week until March 12, 11:59 p.m. ET according to a statement sent out by the player representatives shortly after the initial report:
The NFLPA has sent out official ballots to every NFL player who was a dues paying member in the 2019 season to cast their vote on a new collective bargaining agreement. As outlined in our constitution, ratification of a new deal is subject to approval by a majority of our members who vote. The voting will be open until Thursday, March 12th at 11:59pm EST. Player ballots will be confidential and will be received by an independent auditor to ensure the integrity of the process. We encourage every NFL player to review the full collective bargaining agreement and exercise their democratic right to vote.
In order to ratify the proposal — which includes among other key points the option for the owners to add a 17th game to the regular season as early as 2021 — a simple majority will be needed. Voting will be done electronically, which means that the auditor mentioned in the NFLPA’s statements can follow the process in real time but that a result should still not be expected to be announced until the day after voting concluded, Friday, March 13.
The final day of the voting process will of course be big for the league, because it also is the last day clubs are allowed to place the franchise tag on impending unrestricted free agents. Still governed under the CBA signed in 2011, teams have an option to use up to two tags this year — something the New England Patriots are not expected to do — but a new labor deal could alter the landscape. Despite that, however, there is reportedly no plan in place to extend the window beyond its March 12, 4:00 p.m. ET deadline.
There have also not been any reports about the league potentially moving back the start of the 2020 league year and free agency on March 18. Both of which will of course be impacted by whether or not the league operates under a new CBA or the “Final League Year” rules established within the current agreement between the two parties — one that includes the so-called “30 percent” rule that could have an impact on the Patriots and their contract negotiations with quarterback Tom Brady.
While the proposed CBA is expected to get the support of lower-level players, some prominent ones have come out against it: on Thursday, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs and Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley added their voices to a chorus also including San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
No matter how the vote ends, however, the 2020 season will still go down as planned even if a different set of rules is in place under the 2011 CBA that expires next offseason.
To read more on the proposed CBA, please make sure to read our previous coverage on the topic:
If you want to read through the entire 456-page long proposed collective bargaining agreement, please click here.