NFL players better read the fine print before approving owners' new CBA offer

Ron Borges

In the coming days the NFL’s roughly 2,000 players will take a vote that will either extend the present CBA (collective bargaining agreement) for 11 years or lead to a lockout or player strike in 2021. Based on that likelihood it would seem logical to assume a “yes’’ vote would be wise.

Unless you’re an owner, it would not.

The increased one percent share in designated gross revenue (meaning not all the revenues the owners haul in) in the new deal would lift the players’ share to 48 per cent, which translates into an estimated additional $150 million to the players. If the season expands to 17 games, as the owners are insisting, that would add another half-a-percentage point to the players, or another $70-75 million.

It would appear from those numbers that rank-and-file players (meaning the 60-plus per cent making some form of NFL minimum wage) would get a considerable bump in income, somewhere on average around $100,000 on the low end and upwards of $200,000-plus among players with over four years’ experience.

But now we get to the real money.

According to the present offer, if revenues from television and streaming rights increase by 60 percent after present contracts are renegotiated by the owners, the players would receive an additional half a percent. And if they skyrocket by 120 per cent or more they would get another 3/10ths of a per cent.

If the players agree to that they are stark raving mad because that increase would be worth billions, and most of that money would be going to Jerry Jones not Julio Jones.

In addition, the deal points in the memo sent to players barely addresses additional legal gambling revenue expected to come to each club and how it will be distributed.

One last thing: While minimum salaries will rise considerably, owners are already planning to force young players, lower-round draft choices and aging veterans without leverage into what are known as “split contracts.’’ What those do is to pay the player the higher minimum for games he is active, but, if injured and not on the active roster, to be paid a far lower salary.

In the end, some players will have higher minimum salaries but actually make less money. For example, a rookie under the new deal would make $610,000 prorated over the weeks he is active. But if injured and inactive, his prorated salary would be decreased to $400,000.

The owners also want to add two more playoff games. Player salaries are based on the regular season. Post-season pay for star players is far, far less than a regular-season game check. So the owners would get the added full value of two more games. While minimum earning players would in some cases be paid more than regular-season game checks, many veterans and every star would make far less.

So what’s the benefit to them to take more risk with their bodies and minds?

Certainly there would be more jobs, both on the active roster and the practice squad, as well as fewer padded practices, but in the end the CBA is basically about how the billions the NFL grosses will be distributed. On that end the players seem to be getting the short end of the stick. This is especially true if they play more than the average three[year career.

Now let us examine one small bit of fine print in this deal that speaks to the pettiness and penurious nature of NFL owners. Every year hundreds of former players apply for disability benefits. Some collect as much as $11,500 a month ($135,000 a year) for having had their bodies broken and ruined by the game. Many older retirees also collect Social Security disability benefits, upping their overall income by around $2,000 a month in most cases.

What the owners’ new CBA will do is label that double dipping. The new deal wants an offset on disability pay, reducing what the NFL pays its injured former workers by whatever their Social Security disability benefit might be. As the latter increases over time via cost-of-living increases, the league’s disability payments will decrease. Once a player begins to take his NFL pension, it would mean a further reduction in what former players receive from the league’s disability benefit.

Really? Owners making millions with franchises worth billions really need to nickel-and-dime disabled former players out of a couple thousand dollars?


And if they’re willing to do that, what else is in this agreement that few have the slightest idea about? Do you think for one minute the majority of those 2,000 players are actually sitting down and reading the proposed CBA? I doubt it.

What they do know is that when all is said and done they still won’t have guaranteed contracts. The owners will still have the ability to tag two players and prevent them from becoming free agents and players will be forced to play a 17th game -- and in some cases an additional playoff game as well. Their injury risk – both short term and long term – will increase while the disability payments that many will qualify for after retirement will decrease.

The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers explained in detail why he was one of 14 player reps to vote not to recommend the deal to the rank and file (the final vote was 17-14, with one abstention), claiming the players he spoke with wanted no part of additional games while the owners said they needed the added revenue from those games to pay for additional benefits.

Consider that for a moment. Owners who haven’t flown commercial in 30 years, who own boats the length of two football fields and drive cars with excise taxes larger than the average fan’s mortgage, have to suck a few thousand dollars from disabled players’ Social Security benefit and throw playersinto at least one more game likely to help put them on disability.

What those 2,000 players need to consider is that the last time they caved and gave the owners a 10-year deal that neither side could opt out of, they lost more than they gained. Now the owners are insisting they approve a new deal that will bind them for the next 11 years.

If they think the guys trying to take a few thousand dollars in disability benefits from broken former players are offering them a great deal, wait until they see what happens when broadcast and streaming rights fees skyrocket and the bulk of the money goes not to the players but to the owners ... and even to guys paid to talk about the players.

“That’s why we shouldn’t sign the new CBA,’’ Saints’ star Michael Thomas recently said after CBS agreed to pay ex-Dallas quarterback Tony Romo $17 million a season to analyze games. “No way the announcer should be making more than 90 percent of the players.’’

Ninety percent who are guaranteed two things with this new deal: It's short term gain for long term pain … and when that pain gets really intense they’re coming for your Social Security disability check, too

Comments (12)
No. 1-3
brian wolf
brian wolf

Great points as usual Ron ...

Its crazy how the star players who make all the money, know more about this deal than the lower level players, who need the money so bad, there is no way, they will strike.

Yet, they may need to strike, so they can be treated better down the line, assuming they don't manage their money better.

These owners aren't stupid, they feed off the four-year average, career player, knowing injuries are the name of the game and with less intense, padded practices, the injuries could increase, though the days of the vicious hitting in games from the Rozelle Era are long gone.

The players should strike, just to PROVE to the fat cat owners they can, but its like normal people trying to boycott Walmart or Exxon, too many people, especially poor people, are dependent.

Whatever happens, the players have to be smart because this whole game depends upon the fans. The fans dont like greedy owners but they know, there is no better entertainment value out there, to watch and consume. (Free Porn doesn't count ... haha)

Yet fans are fickle with players, whose shoulders, like player union rep, now forgotten Bernie Parrish, once said, supports this game.

They want to win and be entertained but not constantly be ripped off by owners and selfish, me first players.

Get the best deal players, even if it means striking. The fans will be upset, but they will take it out on the owners by not coming to games, or even better, not watching on television.
What many fans never knew, is that the owners were so greedy, they wanted Pay-per-viewing, like the WWE, even closed circuit TV/Venues going back to the early 70s. They finally got it in the 90s with satellite packages that get more expensive every year, not to mention streaming now but the networks still pay way too much, to have it for the viewer.
The owners and networks need to be shaken to the core like any greedy monopoly but it takes many people with guts, smarts and ability to sacrifice, to make it happen.

Owner Assistant
Owner Assistant

Here are some other facts that I know from working for a NFL owner. #1 There was a HUGE push in the owners meetings of 2006 to move on from older players faster...., why? if less than 4 years NO PENSION, if less that 4 years NO WORKERS COMP. So when the owners wish to go younger it is a huge financial gain for each club. In addition - the next step is "IN STADIUM" gambling of which the owners will keep 100% of that money. I am not sure why they are fooling with just 17 games - they should just go 18 right now. Whats interesting is the CFL went to 18 games in 1986 and they have less players per roster than the NFL. Fans are tired of paying for 2 preseason home games. The league is at a tipping point. Gen Y and Z are not as big of fans as previous generations and with cord cutting - viewership will continue to drop. Owners have a plan right now to play scab players if there is a strike - BIG Mistake! anyway - just some insight from someone who has read the real "minutes" and knows some of the dirty details.


As a former player who’s family has gone through hell to get some of these benefits, this is appalling. Billionaire owners trying to save a buck at the cost of the disabled. That’s it. Nothing less. Let’s discuss why Social Security is important (My experience) I had to be approved through Social Security, before I could even apply for NFL disability. (Social Security average payout is $1,234 a month for the record) It’s hell. It’s not all. It takes YEARS to get approved. Then, the NFL disability application program starts. Which takes YEARS to finish. $135k a year (before taxes) is what SOME players receive from Total & permeant disability, not average. Had I not played the minimum years to apply for these benefits, I’d really be in trouble. Add in the majority of ex-players who played 2-2.5 years. They get nothing. Great article Ron. I appreciate honesty when people need it. You delivered.

NFL Stories