NFL’s opt-out offer carries a renegotiation loophole

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PFT has obtained the full contents of the NFL’s most recent proposal to the NFL Players Association, which means that the weekend will feature a series of blurbs regarding various aspects of the league’s position.

First up, one of the most intriguing aspects of pro football in a pandemic: The ability of players to choose not to play.

The deadline for making an all-or-nothing decision arrives on August 1, at 5:00 p.m. ET. Written notice “must be received” by the team before that moment; once notice is received as to a given player, the opt out becomes irrevocable. Thus, unlike a holdout (which can end at any time), the player who opts out cannot play at all in 2020.

A player who opts out will have his contract toll for a full year. He will not receive his base salary or any other payments scheduled to be earned after the date of the opt out, and he will not earn a benefit credit or an accrued season. In 2021, his contract will be reinstated. If he “timely reports for all required activities” in 2021, the opt out will not become a breach of his 2020 contract, which “will not subject him to discipline or forfeiture, will not void any bonuses or guarantees or have any other adverse consequences beyond those set forth herein.”

That’s an important provision. The player who opts out in 2020 can’t hold out or otherwise breach his contract in 2021; if he does, his opt out becomes a breach of his contract, after the fact.

The player who opts out will receive a $150,000 stipend for 2020 — minus any amounts already received by the player in 2020. The balance (up to $150,000) would be treated as an advance on the player’s 2021 base salary. (This implies that players not under contract for 2021 would not be eligible for the stipend.)

Here’s the most intriguing aspect of the opt-out proposal: The NFL’s offer states that “[n]o club may renegotiate a contract with any player who has given notice of his intention to opt out.” As a practical matter, this gives a player until August 1 to use the threat of a potential opt out as leverage to get a new deal.

The message from agent to team would go like this: “My client wants to play this year, but he’s got serious reservations about the league’s safety procedures, and he is concerned about catching the virus and spreading it to his family. But he’d be willing to assume the enhanced risk of playing this year if he were to get a new contract.”

For players who already have made their displeasure with their contract known, like Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, it potentially becomes the ultimate all-in move. If he opts out, he’s done for the year. And while he’d still be subject to the terms of his 2020 contract in 2021, the Vikings wouldn’t have him on the team in 2020. Would the threat of an opt out be enough to get them to pay Cook?

One last point on the opt out: It’s irrevocable both to the player’s team and as to any other team. Although he can be traded or released after opting out, the player cannot play for any team in 2020, once notice to opt out is received.

Again, these terms come only from the NFL’s latest offer. The union may push for, and secure, a later opt-out date or the conditional ability to return by a specific date later in the year or more money for 2020 or other terms not currently in the offer. For now, however, it’s clear that the league is willing to let a player choose to not play, subject to a broader agreement on the terms and conditions for the 2020 season.

26 responses to “NFL’s opt-out offer carries a renegotiation loophole

  1. If I’m the team I’d say “how much did Leveon Bell make when he sat out a season?”
    Go ahead and sit out and earn zero instead of 10 to 20 million or whatever is big contract is.

  2. So this is all just one big negotiating ploy.
    Both sides know the season won’t be held; each is trying to maximize what they can get out of it.
    Assuming what I am thinking is true (and I hope it is not), this is truly sad that this crisis isn’t bringing out the best in us, but the worst.

  3. No work = NO PAY
    Dont know what is so hard to understand about that.
    You want to stay home and play Madden all day/every day? Fine go ahead.
    Remember that decision next contract time though……

  4. So much haggling, but it’s all going to be for naught when games start getting cancelled. I think at best 4 to 8 games will happen per team. That’s the best case scenario.

  5. I don’t understand why the NFL is even negotiating. The players signed the CBA.

    In my book, the NFL should just say “These are your options. We’re trying to be understanding, but we have a business to run. We’ll take all precautions in the work place, and each team will weigh special considerations. There will be no renegotiations of contracts for pllayers who opt out of playing this year, and any player who choses to opt out cannot return at any point during the season.

  6. Very few players are going to opt out…they play football knowing that when they are retired they are going to live in pain and possibly have brain issues.. for them covid is a small risk..

  7. tripoli18 says:

    July 18, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Over/under is 10 for players who opt out? I bet the under!
    —–
    And you would lose. Look at MLB and NBA with less players and the amount of opt outs. A quick check showed at least 11 players who opted out of the NBA restart which isnt even involving the whole league. If you want to say less than 10 superstars opt out I can agree but a more accurate over/under would likely be 25

  8. So this is all just one big negotiating ploy.
    Both sides know the season won’t be held; each is trying to maximize what they can get out of it.
    Assuming what I am thinking is true (and I hope it is not), this is truly sad that this crisis isn’t bringing out the best in us, but the worst.
    ——
    Sometimes I wonder about people …

  9. Lol what a disaster this has become! just cancel the season already.
    ——
    What a quitter ..

  10. Again, these terms come only from the NFL’s latest offer. The union may push for, and secure, a later opt-out date or the conditional ability to return by a specific date later in the year or more money for 2020 or other terms not currently in the offer.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Given the circumstances, I think this offer is as good as the players could reasonably hope for. Any opposition to this plan (beyond just playing for the negotiated contract) seems like it would be about being shady. The NFL has given individual players an individual choice that could collectively effect the entire league. It also allows the league time to react if a significant percentage choose to opt out but it does not seem to address the disaster of playing one week, guaranteeing veteran contracts and then watching half the players suddenly opt out. I hope the league has some other procedure in place to avoid that.

  11. If true, I really like this as it would be devastating to our society not to have the NFL. The NFL needs to happen

  12. “..it would be devastating to our society not to have the NFL…”

    Wow.
    Time to get a life.

  13. Well, there won’t be an NFL season, if there is, it ends in disaster when a star player dies or suffers permanent lung/organ problems and can’t play anymore.

    I’m a big NFL fan, but I’d rather wait until next year than put young men at risk.

    Had we actually had a federal response other than “its a hoax!” and people wore masks, we’d have this behind us by now. However, its out of control.

    Oh and the “society will end without the NFL”. C’mon man.

  14. What happens when a guy like Dalvin Cook does as you suggest, tell the team he’ll play if there is a new contract then 5 minutes after inking the contract he tells the team he’s decided it’s too much of a risk to play and therefore he’s going to sit out this year with his new contract along with the signing bonus he just got?

  15. Antonio Brown Where Are You? says:
    July 18, 2020 at 7:59 am
    If I’m the team I’d say “how much did Leveon Bell make when he sat out a season?”
    Go ahead and sit out and earn zero instead of 10 to 20 million or whatever is big contract is.
    ____________

    The Steelers knew that was coming so they drafted Conner in anticipation of letting Bell walk.

    If George Kittle decides he doesn’t want to wait until next offseason to sign the largest TE contract in NFL history, he can tell the Niners to pay up now or he’ll opt out, leaving the team with a massive hole to fill.

    Not quite an apples to apples comparison.

  16. cfbcfb says:
    July 18, 2020 at 12:19 pm
    Had we actually had a federal response other than “its a hoax!” and people wore masks, we’d have this behind us by now. However, its out of control.
    ——–

    You mean like trying to ban people from entering our country, only to be told by the people in the House that it was “racist?”

  17. Dalvin Cook sitting out this year is the best case scenario for Minnesota. Don’t make him take all those hits in a year that is inevitably a waste thanks to Kirk.

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