The NFL would like to get a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place before the start of the 2019 regular season, the league’s 100th. Although that goal reflects an unreasonable degree of optimism, the league presumably would settle for declaring long-term labor peace in the days preceding the Super Bowl that caps the league’s 100th season.
Regardless, the window has opened, and an opportunity exists to get a deal done. From the perspective of the NFL Players Association, that gives rise to a different kind of opportunity — an opportunity to squeeze the NFL for more than what the NFL ordinarily would give, given the NFL’s desire to get a deal done.
That’s the practical consequence of the league wanting to move now. It’s true of any negotiation; if one side makes time of the essence, it alters the essence of the negotiation, at least a bit.
Of course, this hardly means the league will just roll over for the NFLPA. And that’s something the NFLPA needs to realize if/when an effort will be made to exploit the league’s desire to get a deal done.
The NFLPA should exploit the circumstances, to a certain extent. But an attempt to ask for too much could actually push the two sides farther apart, making it harder to get something accomplished. And if the NFL doesn’t get the deal done within the time that the league would like to get the deal done, the NFL could then harden its position, making it even harder to get something accomplished.
So this will require subtlety, and nuance. Yes, the NFLPA stands to squeeze a little more out of the NFL based on the NFL’s desire to act now, but that’s hardly a blank check. Even if/when the two sides strike a deal on the most important aspect of the talks — as always, the money — the NFLPA won’t be able to say, “Give us this and that and that and this and that” without making an equivalent concession.
That’s how it always works, as to the non-monetary elements of any CBA negotiation. To get something, something else must be given up. And the two sides must be in harmony as to how the status quo will be changed as to one term, coupled with how the status quo will be changed as to another term.
So, yes, the NFLPA currently has the upper hand, but to a very limited extent. If the NFLPA overplays its hand, the advantage will evaporate. And that’s something that needs to be understood from the get-go, since the only way to prove the point is to push the issue and ultimately do a deal that isn’t as good as the deal that could have been done.