Retired Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander emphasized the interests of rank-and-file players Sunday after the passing of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Meanwhile, the Bills prepared to launch into the free-agency shopping season with a little more than $70 million in cap space, according to Buffalo News figures. That was fifth most in the NFL by Sportrac.com’s rankings.
The NFL’s legal tampering period is set to being at noon Monday. The Bills and the rest of the 31 teams can officially sign players whose contracts are expiring starting 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Alexander, a member of the NFL Players’ Association’s 11-man executive committee, stressed the benefit to the greater good after it was announced that players ratified the new CBA by a vote of 1,019 to 959.
“Through our increased revenue sharing, that we were able to raise the minimum (salaries), we were able to increase the benefits, it will definitely impact the majority of the players, that 65% that we talk about that are on minimum deals,” Alexander said in an interview on ESPN.
A minimum-salary player who was a rookie last year will see his base pay rise from $495,000 to $675,000. By the fourth year, his salary will have nearly doubled. Meanwhile, the players will see an increase in total share of revenue from 47% to 48%. The number goes to 48.5% when a 17th game is added and media revenues rise to a certain level.
Accepting a 17th game and agreeing to a 10-year term were the big concessions the players gave the owners in the contract negotiations.
“I think it probably won’t be as impactful for the majority of guys,” Alexander said, referring to adding a 17th game.
“You know, our average is three years,” Alexander said of the length of an average player’s career (which actually is a tad more than three years). “So does that three games or that additional playoff game, make a huge difference when you’re talking about a cumulative impact? Especially when we walked back some of the things in training camp? Hopefully it kind of evens itself out.”
The immediate impact of the new CBA on the Bills' cap situation as the NFL’s free-agency season begins is not significant. The Bills were in great salary cap shape for 2020 whether or not the deal was ratified.
The NFL announced the salary cap total for 2020 will be $198.2 million. After the rollover of unused cap space from last season, that left the Bills $75.5 million under the cap. But that did not count the recent signing of guard Quinton Spain.
However, a rejection of the CBA could have put some onerous restrictions on the negotiations Bills General Manager Brandon Beane is expected to conduct this year in trying to extend the contracts of players on their rookie deals. Those players include linebacker Matt Milano, cornerback Tre’Davious White and tackle Dion Dawkins.
Due to special rules that would have kicked in if the CBA was rejected, the Bills would not have been allowed to give those players a salary increase of more than 30% for 2021, which would have forced a big pay jump in 2020. That’s no concern now, because those special rules are moot. Beane can structure any extended deals just like he always has done.
The passage of the CBA is expected to dramatically increase the cap for 2021. (The exact figure is not known.) That will help all teams, including the Bills. It should give Buffalo more flexibility in reaching contract extensions because there will be more space to fill next year.
The 17th game will not start in 2020, but a seventh playoff spot in each conference will be added for the coming season.
Alexander acknowledged the extra wear and tear on players’ bodies was a source of disagreement in the CBA voting.
“The 17th game, it’s going to be impactful, especially for guys that have been able to create a career of seven-plus years in this league,” Alexander said. “There’s no way around it. If you played seven-plus years in this league, it’s definitely going to take a toll on your body, especially if you’re a perennial playoff team.”
“Like an Aaron Rodgers, like a Russell Wilson,” Alexander said, referring to the quarterbacks of Green Bay and Seattle, both of whom opposed the deal. “So those guys are looking at it as if they’re not the No. 1 seed, it’s actually two more games in their eyes. I think that’s why this vote was so contentious because you have players at both ends of the spectrum. This deal will potentially impact players in Year 1 vs. Year 10 much differently.”
Bills veteran tackle LaAdrian Waddle, set to become a free agent on Wednesday, expressed is displeasure with the vote on Twitter.
Waddle, a seven-year veteran who spent all of last season on injured reserve, called the CBA “the biggest L I took since SB 52,” in reference to his loss with the New England Patriots to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“We left too much meat on the bone with the new CBA,” Waddle said. “I hope we don't look back on this and wish we fought for more.”