Chicago Bears

Hub Arkush: Bears among losers under new CBA

Bears general manager Ryan Pace will have less salary cap space to work with this offseason than expected under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace will have less salary cap space to work with this offseason than expected under the new collective bargaining agreement.

Until a full copy of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement with its players becomes available, it is impossible to do a final tally on who really won, who lost and what the agreement's greatest assets and liabilities are.

But with what we know already, we can start to fill in our scorecard.

WINNERS

NFL owners: For a business as successful as the NFL – about $16 billion in annual revenues and all 32 teams quite profitable – that its product is almost totally the player is quite unusual.

Without them, there is no business, and the fact that in spite of that they will only receive 48% to 48.5% of the revenue they generate, at the same time guaranteeing the owners absolute caps on their costs, is somewhat outrageous.

The rich get richer.

Fans: Although you will find fans in the losers column below, as well, that we are all now guaranteed 11 more seasons of America’s greatest game with no labor or work stoppage interruptions under any normal conditions is great news.

Although interruptions to the current season appear likely at the moment because of the coronavirus pandemic, as much as they probably think they should, even NFL owners get no vote when it comes to acts of God.

Backup players, special-teams aces and retired players: The only reason the players accepted this new CBA – by almost the slimmest of margins, 1,019-959 – is because of the significant gains it offers the bottom half of each roster in additional jobs, guaranteed minimum salaries and pension benefits, and although it is still unclear whether this will extend to all or only some players, it will take only three vested seasons to earn those pensions as opposed to four years in the old CBA.

Bad actors: With commissioner Roger Goodell no longer allowed to serve as judge, jury and executioner on player discipline, the 2% or 3% of the players the league might be better off without will get a fairer shake when it comes to penalties for their malfeasance, and pot smokers no longer will fear suspensions.

LOSERS

Starters and star players: There is almost nothing in this new CBA for the players that make the game great.

It appears the measly 1% or 1.5% increase the players will get in total football revenue beginning in 2021 will go mostly to cover the improvements in the benefits portions of the players' share of revenue, increased roster sizes and minimum salaries.

All players will gain from the benefits improvements, but they are less important to the higher earners.

Other than quarterbacks and the top 1% or 2% of stars, it seems likely the next-best players could make less rather than more in the early years of this CBA.

Fans: According to Goodell, the new CBA will “give our fans more and better football.” That is simply untrue.

Most coaches and front office folks will tell you the restrictions on practice and contact practices added in the last CBA have made it harder to teach and limited the quality of play. Those restrictions are increased again in this deal.

The two extra playoff teams and games being added are games no one should want.

This past season, it would have added the Rams and Steelers, two clubs that did nothing to deserve playoff spots. And No. 2 seeds, such as the 2019 Chiefs, now will have to win three games to get to the Super Bowl rather than two, increasing the odds the best teams may not make it.

Bears: The new CBA will be somewhere between a loss and break even for the Bears in 2020.

Although various reporters, including myself, have kicked around a potential $6 million-to-$20 million salary cap bump this season from a new deal, there will be none as a direct result of this new CBA.

Assuming roster sizes and new minimum salaries are kicking in immediately as reported, with the players' share of revenue not increasing until 2021, the Bears will have less salary cap space than we expected to spend on upgrades and additions rather than more.

Perhaps a seventh playoff spot being more attainable for the Bears is a plus, but how excited would Bears Nation be about claiming that seventh seed next season?

Hub Arkush is Shaw Media's director of football content. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly,com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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