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NFL, union finally finalize COVID amendments to CBA

2020 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by NFL via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic made the NFL offseason longer and less news-filled than any offseason in memory, with teams across the league prohibited from having players in their facilities. This meant not only the elimination of offseason programs, including organized strength and conditioning, OTAs and minicamps, but also an elimination of free agent visits, which brought much of the offseason to a halt. However, players have now reported to camp, with COVID-19 testing protocols underway and the conditioning portion of training camp has begun.

That means it won’t be long before players are donning pads in order to start the padded practice portion of training camp, even if there won’t be any preseason games in which they are able to display their skills. With that in mind, the NFL and the NFLPA have finally reached agreement on the amendments to the CBA for the special rules put in place as a result of the pandemic.

One of the biggest items that fans have asked about is the deadline for players to opt out, and that has now been set. Specifically, Thursday at 4 PM New York Time is the deadline for players to opt out of the season. However, that is not a hard and fast deadline, as players retain the right to opt out going forward if they, or someone with whom they live, is newly diagnosed with a condition that is defined as high risk.

As for the opt outs themselves, there are two different variations of opt outs. The first is a voluntary opt out, which can be exercised by any player for any reason. Any player who chooses this variant is given a $150,000 stipend, which is in effect a loan, and they do not earn either a credited season or an accrued season for 2020. The stipend they receive this year is then deducted from their 2021 salary.

The second variation of opt out involves those players who are defined as high risk. These players receive a $350,000 advance on their 2021 salary, while also earning an accrued and credited season and maintaining their health insurance under Article 58 of the CBA.

For players who do opt out, their contracts are tolled, which means however long they have left on their contract heading into 2020 they will have left on their contract heading into 2021. So, for example, for the Seattle Seahawks, who have had only one player, Chance Warmack, opt out so far, this means that Warmack will now see his one year contract for 2020 shifted to cover the 2021 season.

This gives Thursday the potential to be a significant news day both for the Seahawks and across the league. Given that to this point the majority of players who have opted out have been those who ply their trade in the trenches, it could create extra incentive for teams to increase any offers they have made to players like Jadeveon Clowney, Everson Griffen, Damon Harrison or Mike Daniels. In short, if the stream of linemen opting out continues, it opens up both need and cap space for teams to pay more for the available remaining free agents.