Players currently have leverage in CBA talks, but how will they use it?

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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.

29 responses to “Players currently have leverage in CBA talks, but how will they use it?

  1. I love football but am completely okay with a lockout or strike, the players have gotten way out of hand. Bring in replacement players if they must.

  2. Can top priority on the new CBA that players can no longer whine!! Also they need more practice time. The quality of Football has gone down the last 10 years or so. And no suing the league either. If its too rough dont play!! Go get a normal job.

  3. Just the question alone of, “should players have a say in franchise location?” further proves to me that today’s football players demands have gotten way out of hand and need to be pulled back. Since when does an employee have a say in where the employer locates his business? Thousands of Americans year after year have to move to different parts of the country in order to follow their paycheck. It’s a fact of life. Get over this coddling of today’s athletes. It has gone too far. Their requirements of how much practice time, etc. they’re required to perform is ridiculous now.

  4. Sorry, but in the battle of billionaires vs. millionaires, the millionaires do NOT have leverage.

  5. The NFL players want NBA type money and that isn’t happening. They also want baseball type totally guaranteed contract and that isn’t happening. The players have to notice the growing number of empty seats at NFL and realize the prices are getting out of reach for more and more fans. Having sellouts for just the Patriot games at Foxboro is where the NFL is headed if they agree to the no cap system that baseball has. Check out all the empty seats at today’s baseball games.

  6. Paul says:
    July 7, 2019 at 4:47 pm
    I love football but am completely okay with a lockout or strike, the players have gotten way out of hand. Bring in replacement players if they must.
    Yeah, it would be cool to see Keanu Reeves at QB.

  7. Say goodbye to the NFL looks like another lockout is coming and it could last a whole year so be prepared bring on the XFL

  8. How exactly have the players gotten out of hand? Because they are asking for their fair share of what the billionaire owners are pulling in? I wonder what the difference is…

  9. While individual players may be punks or overpaid, overall compared to MLB the players make a lot less. In MLB players get 54%, in the NFL its around 47.5%.
    Considering the damage NFL players take they should make at least the same amount as the MLB players.

    The owners smartly out negotiated the players last time. Lets see if the players wisen up and ask for more.

    The franchise tag should only apply to QBs, but I wouldn’t push that issue as the players.
    I’d push for getting a more even split of total revenue, no more 47.5%.

    The players who are “screwed” by being tagged, aren’t really screwed. They just make a couple of million less. Like 18MM instead of 20.

  10. 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 attitude is dumb. Successful negotiations are rarely based on screwing the other side over just to see how far the line can be crossed. That is especially true when the agreement will be negotiated again in the future. The players do not really have leverage, Florio is rooting for them and is hoping they do. The owners hold the financial stake in their teams and the league. The players always mention partners so they can be seen as equals but their idea of partnership involves absolutely zero financial risk or responsibility for day to day operations, potential lawsuits (they are actually the main litigators). The players are famous and they get paid really well but when you boil it all down they are simply employees who want to take as much as they can get. All the people that say the players are the league and can’t be easily replaced, review your team’s roster from 3, 5, 7 years ago today and try to make that claim again with a straight face.

  11. Ah yes, so the pro-player narrative begins.
    Sorry…no not sorry because under no circumstances should the employees have so much control over the owners. Especially given the fact that players have ZERO liability in any of the NFL operations at the team or league levels.
    If players actually had contributed something to risk then I could see them having a reason. But what the NFLPA and the players are demanding are the players having the ability to benefit financially from the NFL without assuming any risk whatsoever.

  12. magnumpimustache says:
    July 7, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    How about negotiating a deal both sides can be “Ok” with.

    But that’s just me

    I can only judge the first 4 posts because that is what I can see right now and from my point of view most think players are overstepping. What a joke. Billionaires own every single team but the Packers and even Packer fans are fleeced of their money. I didn’t like some of the players union demands during the last time they did this but that is their job and for the most part, prevailed. Mostly, reward your average player instead of some rookie getting paid at the expense of those who have proved they belong. The reality is the players outnumber their billionaire owners who have more than enough money which is why I agree with the poster I quoted above. And to the people thinking NFL players won a lottery and wouldn’t understand your normal job description; All I can say is we focus on big time players while most have devoted their whole future on football and learn the hard way the average is 3 years of football before your slushed out of the NFL. Anyway, my point is colleges, TV, Streaming internet and owners prophet more than anyone which in my mind should shrink their demands because without players that greatly outnumber them deserve a bit more of that pie. The biggest losers are really the coaches.

  13. Two sides to this coin; the owners are out of control with the way that they take advantage of tax payers to build the monolithic stadiums to enhance their prestige and bottom line. The players are out of control with the continuing demands to guarantee salaries and get more of the ‘pie’. The losers in all of this; the fans, for the common fan, games are out of economic reach. If the owners and players don’t bring things under control the league will expense itself to death.

  14. Players should never have leverage. Plenty of others out there willing to make hundreds of thousands.

  15. The problem is that I’d bet the large majority of players would cave if there were a lockout simply because they would have no money. They may make tons of money but they love to spend it too. It’s hard to make the payments on your Ferrari and a dozen other cars, a house payment, child support, etc. when no money’s coming in and they don’t have the common sense not to spend it as fast as they get it.

    Personally, I enjoyed the strike season. It wasn’t great football but in some respects it was more fun to watch. I’ll never forget Bill Walsh running out the wishbone on the first Monday night of with replacement players. Parcells got a chuckle out of it as did the announcers and probably everyone watching it. Besides, they may be strike players but it can’t be any worse than watching the Cardinals, Bungles, Raiders, Jags and Falcons last year.

  16. Good luck NFLPA (not that I am pro-NFLPA). The NFL league office is a farce. Mediocre officials (poor calls) are deciding games while the NFL is too cheap to employ the officials full-time (but still expect fans to pay more for tickets to games decided by officials…lol). Camera angles are lacking because adding cameras is apparently “too expensive”. Yet the NFL probably has a staff of investigators that the IRS would envy, the league is constantly trying to negotiate public funding of their venues, the league office is seemingly content to parade the dispute resolution process through the federal courts (in lieu of hiring a qualified commissioner pursuant to the job responsibilities set forth in the CBA), and then the owners are buying $250M yachts. Hmmm…..

  17. I’d really like to know what the main issues are.

    I don’t think long guaranteed contracts will work, instead take 3 year deals, with most/all the money guaranteed (IF YOU ARE STAR, else you don’t get it all guaranteed). Then you have a lot of incentive to play hard because you can get another contract in your late twenties.
    No more Antonio Browns, OBJs, or Julio Jones (crying 2 years into a 5 year deal).

    The Franchise tag is unfair to non-QBs, but they still get paid a lot, just not top-top dollars, but its just a handful of non QBs.

    An 18 game season would result in so many injuries that post season would be luck dependent. Just add another bye week (before each teams Thursday night game), keep the 16 game season, and you get an extra week of TV revenue without having to play more games.
    Free money for the NFL and no risk of injury.

    The players should push for 50% of the revenue. That and having an independent person handle suspension appeals.

  18. No chance for it to happen but here’s an idea – year up this rookie 4/5 year deal plus 3 tags nonsense, in return players have to actually practice, no more whining or social/political nonsense.

    Also, no more using the refs to rig games, it’s enough already.

  19. Isn’t there more to this idea? The longer the negotiations go on, the power shifts to the owners side. IF the owners don’t get the early negotiations completed, then the NFLPA assumes the pressure of players that lose pay AND get closer to a new class of players pushing out old ones that didn’t get paid. So while you advocate one side has the advantage, maybe they don’t as they could quickly squander it. If history is somewhat of a guide, players get antsy when not getting paid, as anyone would. The NFLPA can tell players to save their money to prepare, once the negotiations go longer than the owners would like, the balance will have shifted to a group that will not feel the impact.

  20. The salary cap levels the playing field which makes the NFL great. Mess with that golden goose and football will sink to the interest level of the other sports.

  21. styx630 says:
    July 7, 2019 at 5:46 pm
    How exactly have the players gotten out of hand? Because they are asking for their fair share of what the billionaire owners are pulling in? I wonder what the difference is…
    Fair share? Stop using meaningless political talking points. The players do not have “fair share” results between themselves and you want to say they should have a fair share in the companies/industry they work for? How much should they be entitled to? Fair share, huh? OK, let the players and owners split ALL revenue 50/50 but the players would now be responsible for 50% of the cost and share in the profits of the day-to day operations of each and every franchise as well as the league hierarchy. Players start writing checks as well. Once that is done, the players’ fair share of everything will be split equally among active players. No more contracts with incentives, bonuses or any other money drama. Each player will receive 1/1696 of the players’ 50% of revenue (after expenses). Sorry, it should be slightly less than that in order to ensure practice squad players get their fair share as well. This means that the disciplinary policy will be fair as well. Since all players would make the same money, any fines can be based on the offense instead of how much the player makes. See? Fair. Still think they should get it?

  22. I love it when people characterize football players’ demands as being unreasonable by comparing them to “regular jobs.”

    You walk out on your job today, your boss will have a dozen resumes of people lined up to replace you by the end of the week.

    Football players walk out on their jobs, and a multi-billion dollar business instantly craters.

    That’s called leverage, and in a negotiation, you use all the leverage you have.

  23. The best settlement, and likely the fairest settlement, is one that both sides think sucks.

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