Last night, we had a chance to relay some of the most significant rule and format changes included in the settlement proposal ratified by the owners. Now, we have a chance to actually expand on some of them.
I know, these rules, regulations and policies could change, but it’s probably safe to assume that the bread and butter of the owners’ proposal will be approved by the players in the next few days. Besides, a lot of the stuff we look at below is player-friendly.
Practice cut-downs: In an effort to protect players from injuries and wear and tear, the league has reportedly agreed to limit teams to only 14 padded practices all season and fewer practices in general. This is in addition to a significantly condensed batch of offseason workouts (two-a-day practices are also gone).
The lack of pads isn’t necessarily a big deal (assuming that shells aren’t considered pads). The real concern is that the new proposal also vaguely mentions “increasing the number of days off for players.” How the hell is that going to work? Mike Mayock stated on NFL Network earlier today that this could cause real problems for coaches as they attempt to prepare for games.
Game day rosters expanded: The third quarterback rule is gone, and teams will now be able to dress 46 players each week without restrictions. Previously, teams that inserted their third-string quarterback prior to the fourth quarter had to use that pivot for the remainder of the game. Now, teams are free to use all three QBs at their convenience.
More importantly, this will give teams the flexibility to make their schemes more Wildcat-friendly, if you will. Run-first or super-athletic quarterbacks can come into the game at any point, so expect more teams to take advantage with gadgets.
No change to franchise tags: This is somewhat surprising. Teams will still have pretty much unlimited use of franchise and transition tags, despite the fact the players were reportedly pushing hard for a one-per-career limit. This could still be negotiated, but it sounds as though the NFLPA has conceded it the owners.
Salary cap at $120.4 million: Teams must spend at least 89 percent of the cap, with the league averaging 99 percent. On the surface, those numbers don’t make sense, but here’s the catch: teams can exceed the cap this year and next year, borrowing against future seasons. That should make things significantly easier on teams that are wayyyy over the cap (Cowboys, Raiders, Jets) and teams that are wayyyy under the cap (Bengals, Bucs, Bills, Chiefs).
Additionally, it’s expected that teams will have to pay out real money to reach the salary floor ($107.2 million). Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, teams only had to reach a cap minimum, making it easier to doctor the numbers. Now, there will be a cash minimum.
Here’s a quality explanation from Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News:
Teams will have to spend almost up to the cap in actual cash.
A team’s “cap number” doesn’t reflect the money it spends in a given year because there are lots of accounting maneuvers that go into calculating the cap. Each team’s cap number counts some money that is amortized over the life of some contracts. If a player gets a $3 million signing bonus on a three-year deal, it counts $1 million each year against the team’s salary cap. Some large-market teams use amortization as a way of spending more than the cap in real dollars.
Under the old bargaining agreement, teams also could use legal accounting tactics to use up cap space without actually spending cash that year, and each team’s cap total had to be at least 86.5 percent of the cap.