The fate of future football seasons is now in the hands of the players.  The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) prepared by NFL team owners and approved by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and player representatives is now being distributed throughout the league.  Around 2,500 players are eligible to cast their vote on whether to accept or reject the proposal, and the CBA final vote tally will be known in about a week.  A simple majority will determine what happens next.

What’s In CBA Final Vote?

The new proposed CBA covers 456 pages, so there’s a lot to digest before a decision can be made.  However, some players, like J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, most likely won’t even bother reading all of the options, instead choosing automatically to vote no due to the inclusion of a possible 17th regular season game.

Many players have already voiced their dissatisfaction with this proposal, arguing that the rewards don’t balance out against the risks.  Watt, as well as Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers have been extremely vocal in their opposition of the CBA, with J.J. Watt saying on Twitter last month, “Hard no on that proposed CBA.”

Still, the course has to play out as written, and the player vote is the last step in the process.  The NFLPA announced that it had distributed the agreement out to all those eligible to vote, saying in a statement, “The NFLPA has sent out official ballots to every NFL player who was a dues paying member in the 2019 season to cast their vote on a new collective bargaining agreement.  As outlined in our constitution, ratification of a new deal is subject to approval by a majority of our members who vote.

“Player ballots will be confidential and will be received by an independent auditor to ensure the integrity of the process. We encourage every NFL player to review the full collective bargaining agreement and exercise their democratic right to vote.”

In addition to the contention 17th game, there would also be two additional playoff teams and two more postseason playoff games.  The 17th game would not come into effect into the 2021 season; however, the other changes could begin with the 2020 playoffs.  The additional playoff games would mean about another $70 million in profit for the players, but the jump in minimum annual salary – going from $510,000 to $610,000 – is where the biggest rewards would be found.  That increase would be included in the first year of the new CBA, and the salary would continue to climb through the end of the agreement, finally reaching $1.06 million.

Banned Substance Changes

Another change included in the agreement centers on the use of substances that have, for the past almost 100 years, been banned.   Marijuana is beginning to find acceptance in major sports leagues, and the NFL is joining the list. The new CBA includes language that removes suspensions if a player pops positive on a drug test.  Instead, a positive indication of drug use will result in no fine the first time, classified as “stage one,” but will have to cough up some money if positive on a subsequent test, “stage two.”

Fines can range to as much as three games’ salary, but at least the players will still be able to take the field.  Suspensions, under the new agreement, can only be handed down if a player refuses to cooperate with the testing.

It’s still too early to know which way the voting will go.  Based on what’s been seen on social media, the NFL’s players are divided almost in half, but there are still a lot of votes that haven’t been cast.  Next Thursday at midnight, the voting closes, and the NFL ecosystem will know then what to expect in the future.