After a very close vote, the NFLPA approved a new CBA that will run for the next 10 years.
NFL players voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement with the league’s owners, ensuring NFL labor peace through at least 2030 and clearing the way for a 17-game regular season as early as 2021.
The vote to approve was close, at 1019-959. Approval required a majority of the players voting.
Now, the Cowboys have a little more clarity regarding which route to take when it comes to signing or tagging their free agents.
Now that a CBA has been agreed to, teams are not allowed to use both the franchise tag and transition tag this offseason. Teams could have used both if the league were still operating under the old CBA. Teams with more than one high-profile tag candidate — such as the Cowboys, with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper — now face a tough decision.
About an hour after the vote was released, sources told ESPN that the salary cap for the 2020 season would be $198.2 million, an increase of $10 million from last season. Overall player costs, which also counts benefits and the performance-based pay pool, per club are $242.9 million.
What are some of the important changes to the new CBA?
2. Minimum salaries
“Our goal going into it was to help core players, and to help minimum salary players,” new NFLPA president JC Tretter told ESPN last week. And player representative Nick Sundberg told The Athletic recently that the NFLPA first asked the NFL to double minimum salaries to $1 million, but got a 20 percent increase in Year 1 (and a more than doubling by 2030). To critics of the deal, this reeks of the NFL pitting players against one another by using higher minimums to drive a wedge between union members. Perhaps, but the truth is if there is a salary cap, then raising minimum salaries by definition depresses how much there is to pay higher-paid players. And a key criticism of the old deal is it created a haves and haves-not league. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that while 65 percent of the league are minimum salary players and benefit arguably the most for the new CBA, the deal passed with barely more than 51 percent. That means one of two things: the 25 percent of the NFLPA’s voting-eligible members that did not vote were disproportionately minimum salary; or many minimum salary players voted against their near term economic interest after listening to the opposition.
Here are some things to watch for during the free agency period — including Dak, Coop, and Byron.
The latest on the Cowboys’ big contracts
Dallas has spent the past couple of weeks hoping and trying to get quarterback Dak Prescott and star wide receiver Amari Cooper under contract before free agency opened. Indications are that they’ve made more progress with Cooper than they have with Prescott, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a Cooper extension done in the next day or so. Expect it to be a shorter-term deal, maybe two or three years, that would allow the 25-year-old Cooper to hit free agency again while still in his 20s.
Prescott’s deal is trickier, but sources close to the discussions have long believed that the Cowboys’ application of the franchise tag to Prescott would not be the end of negotiations. They want to sign him long term regardless.
What kind of deal will Byron sign?
Corners set to cash in
The Cowboys have enough cash and salary-cap space to sign all of their free agents, but it seems likely that defensive back Byron Jones is destined to land elsewhere. There are some who believe Jones will sign a contract that will pay him $16 million to $17 million a year, and he could benefit from a bidding war. Houston and Philadelphia have desperate needs in the secondary, Oakland is looking for cornerback help, and the Giants need pretty much everything on defense. Could Dallas lose Jones to a division rival?
Jones sits atop the cornerback class because of his versatility — he can play safety as well — but James Bradberry and Bradley Roby look poised to cash in as well. There is lots of chatter connecting Bradberry to Washington, where his former Panthers coach, Ron Rivera, is now running the show, and some chatter that the Texans were working to bring back Roby over the weekend.
If Jones leaves Dallas, watch out for veteran Chris Harris Jr. as a possible replacement in the secondary on a shorter-term deal.
What does the new CBA mean for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper?
Essentially, the Cowboys have two high-priority free agents they’d like to keep in Prescott and Cooper, and not a lot of time to secure their services. Cowboys officials have already said they will tag Prescott if a long-term agreement can’t be reached by the deadline.
If that’s the case, they have one day to negotiate with their Pro Bowl quarterback before they must tag him.
That also presents an interesting situation for Cooper. The Cowboys won’t be tagging him unless a long-term agreement is reached with Prescott, but there have been reports that the team is working with their star receiver on an extension of his own.
As of now, the new league year is still slated to start at 3 p.m. CT on Wednesday, which gives the Cowboys roughly three days to work with before Cooper becomes an unrestricted free agent.
We are bound to see different players in different uniforms. Here are ten that could be with a new team in 2020.
Chris Harris Jr., CB
Chris Harris Jr. is one of the top players entering free agency, which makes him likelier to move than most.
While the Denver Broncos would probably like to retain Harris, there are just enough flags around him to cause them to shy off market price. Harris will turn 31 in June and just posted a 69.9 grade at Pro Football Focus, down from 85.5 the year prior.
Harris was on the block at the trade deadline, as ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported the Philadelphia Eagles called the Broncos about him but Denver’s asking price was too high.
That might be viewed as a mistake in hindsight. The Broncos could now get nothing for a veteran corner with a projected market value of $11 million per year. Teams with plenty of cap space and in need of a leader at a premium position won’t have a problem meeting or exceeding that expectation to keep him away from other teams, including his former club.
Chris Harris, Jr. anyone?
Perhaps that is the case for Chris Harris Jr.. This is the time of year where we are, as mentioned, looking for any clue we can find, and the last person that Harris followed on Instagram was none other than Dak Prescott.
It is possible, and honestly extremely likely, that this means nothing. Dak Prescott is one of the more popular players in the NFL so perhaps Harris just wanted to follow him on social media. That makes a lot of sense.
Still though, this is the time of year where every little thing could mean this or that. Perhaps Harris is readying himself to sign with the Cowboys. Perhaps not. We’ll have to wait and see.
Film room: 3 best Cowboys fits in free agency, including a position upgrade that should be Dallas’ top priority - John Owning, SportsDay
Owning breaks down three of the best fits for the Cowboys in free agency.
Mike Pennel, NT
It would be wise if the Cowboys made upgrading the nose tackle position the No. 1 priority in free agency, which is stacked with starting-caliber players. Javon Hargrave and DJ Reader are the two best players on the market, but it’s likely they will price themselves out of the range that Dallas would feel comfortable allocating toward the NT position.
The box score scouts would certainly be in their feelings over signing Pennel, as the former Kansas City Chief’s stat line is rather unimpressive. In the last two seasons, Pennel has just 51 tackles, one sack and 20 total pressures.
However, that ignores that Pennel’s skill set is complementary in nature and despite his modest stat lines, Pennel’s presence has a huge impact on the team’s run defense as a whole. That is easily identifiable when looking at Kansas City’s splits on defense with and without Pennel on the field.
Without him, the Chiefs allowed 5.12 yards per carry and a 53.8% run success rate. With him on the field, the Chiefs allowed only 3.73 yards per carry and a 31.3% run success rate, according to The Quant Edge.
It is officially free agency week. Listen to us set the table on the latest episode of The Ocho.
Make sure that you never miss an episode from Blogging The Boys by subscribing to the Blogging The Boys podcast feed!
Also make sure to subscribe to the official YouTube Channel from Blogging The Boys. We’ve got big plans coming there throughout the offseason and you don’t want to miss a thing!