The National Football League has not lost any games to a work stoppage since 1987, although an impasse in 2011 did erase most of the offseason. The NFL and the NFLPA ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that year to cover the next decade. Now that decade is coming to an end.
The 2020 season is the last one on the current CBA, which means the league and the union are in a new round of talks, hoping once again to avoid any kind of work stoppage. On Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell delivered his annual pre-Super Bowl "state of the league" address in Miami, noting that 2019 was a landmark season for the game and that the future remains bright.
"The 100th season had it all and represents why the best days of the NFL are ahead of us," said Goodell.
That will be particularly true if the NFL and the NFLPA can come to an agreement that pleases both sides and avoids a strike or a lockout. While noting that he wasn't going to negotiate in a press conference, Goodell did speak in optimistic terms about the negotiations.
"We have been having incredibly productive dialogue," he said. "I think we have made a lot of progress. It is now seven or eight months since we have begun discussions more formally. In each of those discussions, it has been open dialogue and has been thoughtful. I think we have addressed difficult issues that face our league going forward and looking forward. I think the players, management, everyone in the negotiation have to work to try to find creative solutions to make the NFL better, and that is what you want."
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Goodell also declined to put any sort of timeline on completing the negotiations. The next notable date in that regard is March 18, as that is the beginning of the new league season. If a new CBA is ratified prior to that, it could change some of the procedures involving free agency and the salary cap, such as the current ability of teams to use both a franchise and transition tag in the final year of the current CBA.
"The process will close when the process closes, when all of us feel comfortable that we reach an agreement that we want to go forward with," said Goodell. "I do not know when that will be, but I think it is more important to get it right."
That said, the commissioner also said that both sides of the table are "anxious" to get a new CBA in place because the sooner a deal is reached the sooner the league and the players can benefit from any substantive changes.
"I think it starts with the fact that if you reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the benefits that will be negotiated in that context will immediately go to, not only the current players, but as just raised, the former players," said Goodell. "There are changes to the system that I think can be beneficial. There are changes to the system that potentially could be beneficial to our clubs, we could begin on that process immediately, and the impact could be felt by our players and clubs immediately.
"We obviously have a lot of things that we would have to put in place, both the union and the NFL once we do reach an agreement, and I think we're all sort of anxious to get to that place, but we're also going to be careful and make sure we get to the right place."