Although the NFL and NFL Players Association strike a comprehensive new Collective Bargaining Agreement once every decade or so, any terms are subject to negotiation and adjustment at any time.
In recent months, the NFLPA has taken aim at the offseason program. Although the vast majority of the sessions are voluntary, players feel compelled to show up because if they don’t, others will. And if young, cheap players show that they can get the job done, veterans become at risk of being squeezed to take less or being cut.
Coaches like Bruce Arians can see right through the push by veterans to reduce offseason workouts. While it’s always good to have down time, it’s always better to protect turf. Having few or no offseason workouts helps achieve that goal.
So with the NFL and NFLPA due to finalize financial terms for 2021, including most importantly a new salary cap, the NFLPA can ask for whatever it wants as part of the negotiations that will conclude with a spending limit for the coming league year. For example, the NFLPA can ask for another virtual offseason program in 2021.
Although coaches won’t like it, they don’t get a vote. Owners decide the terms of employment, and a pattern has emerged over the past decade in which the NFLPA asks for tangible things that cost the owners no money, making them more likely to agree.
It will cost owners nothing if there’s no in-person offseason program in 2021. If anything, they’ll save money via per diem payments and other expenses related to opening the facility for 10 weeks or so between April and June.
It’s one of the many conflicts inherent to the unique dynamics and parameters of the NFLPA. Veterans typically benefit from no OTAs. Younger players typically benefit from OTAs. But veterans tend to run the union, giving them far more influence on matters like this.
Thus, as we get closer to learning what the salary cap will be in 2021, don’t be surprised if the agreement regarding the cap includes an agreement regarding a reduced or eliminated in-person offseason training program for 2021, just as it was in 2020.
And to the extent that not having an in-person offseason training program impacted the on-field in-season product, no one seemed to notice. Scoring was up, games were exciting, and football continued to look and feel like football.