NFL players have voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement, solidifying a deal with the league that paves the way for future 17-game seasons.
The CBA, approved by NFL owners last month before being ratified by a simple majority of voting NFL Players Association members in a result that was announced Sunday, will run through the 2030 season. As part of the agreement, a 17-game regular season could be introduced as early as 2021, while the deal also calls for an increase in league revenues allocated to players, a reduced preseason, an increase in roster sizes from 53 to 55, and more.
Leading up to the vote, the planned CBA drew backlash from some players, with the NFLPA’s executive board rejecting it by a 6-5 vote before player representatives voted in favor by a 17-14 margin (with one abstention). Ultimately, participating players voted 1,019-959 to ratify the deal, allowing it to move forward. More from the AP:
Almost immediately, players were urging unity, particularly in the face of the criticism from within their ranks about approving the deal.
“The democratic process has played itself out,” tweeted Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most influential voices in the union. “We must be committed to unifying our current and former members. While I don’t agree with the decision because of its negative impacts on some current and former players, I do respect our process and will push forward accordingly.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, not surprisingly, praised the players’ acceptance of the new CBA.
“We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football,” Goodell said in a statement. “We appreciate the tireless efforts of the members of the Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA leadership, both of whom devoted nearly a year to detailed, good faith negotiations to reach this comprehensive, transformative agreement.”
The 17-game season could be in place next year, though certain details–including whether the additional games will be played at neutral sites–still have to be finalized. Technically, a potential expansion of the postseason was not part of the bargaining process, as NFL owners can make changes to the playoff format without union approval. A potential new format that adds two teams to the playoffs, while granting only the highest seed in each conference a first-round bye, could take effect with the 2020 season.