According to a report by Mark Maske of The Washington Post, the NFL and NFLPA “have made meaningful progress towards a new labor agreement.”
There is plenty to unpack as negotiations progress, but the most significant tidbit from this news is that there is reportedly a real possibility the eventual agreement will expand the NFL’s regular season schedule to 17 games (while eliminating games from the preseason).
Such an agreement would represent a compromise between the league and the NFLPA. According to Maske, owners had been pushing for an 18-game regular season, but the players union has remained reluctant to budge off the current 16-game schedule. Maske flagged the league’s rookie compensation scale and current marijuana policy as areas in which the owners could give ground in order to persuade the players to agree to an expanded schedule.
The report also lists a 14-team playoff field as a potential inclusion in the agreement.
The current NFL CBA — which was agreed to in 2011 — is valid through the end of the 2020 season, but Maske reports that there is “optimism” a new agreement might be reached by the end of the 2019-20 postseason.
Equipped with nearly $63 million in available salary cap space this offseason, the Bears should have no problem getting free agents to sign on the dotted line come March 9, right?
Not if NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has any say in the matter.
Smith made an appearance on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on WSCR-AM 670 on Friday afternoon, saying that he will tell free agents not to sign with the Bears if the new Illinois workers' comp bill is passed.
"I will tell you from the bottom of my heart that this union will tell every potential free agent player, if this bill passes, to not come to the Bears," Smith told WSCR.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The bill, which is being pushed by the McCaskey family, would put an end to health care for all injured workers beginning at the age of 35, including professional athletes in Illinois.
"This bill being sponsored by (senate Republican minority leader Christine Radogno) is being designed to target professional athletes and take away their right to health care that every worker in the state of Illinois is entitled to," Smith told WSCR. "The Bears’ owners are behind it as well, to beat the expense of the players who actually do all the work. They’re pushing the bill."
The Bears released the following statement via Chris Emma of 670 The Score:
"We join the four other major professional Chicago teams in monitoring and supporting changes to the system that protect athletes’ rights under the workers’ compensation system while acknowledging athletes are not competing professionally until age 67. Nothing in the wage differential language under consideration impacts the right for any athlete to receive just compensation for partial or permanent injury, medical benefits or to file a claim itself."
Fore more information on the bill, visit Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.