How the new NFL labour agreement could affect CFL teams

The NFL has struck a new labour agreement with its players and CFL franchises will have to adapt quickly to the new landscape of professional football.

Increased jobs and salaries in the NFL are going to keep more of the top players in the United States.

The NFL players’ union created 192 more roster spots for their membership. Active rosters were bumped by two to 55, game day rosters moved up to 48, and practice rosters have been expanded to 12 for 2020 and 14 in 2022. And now there is no limit to the amount of years a player can be on the practice squad. As such, the odds of earning an NFL cheque have improved based on the sheer numbers.

Plus the financial incentive for players has grown. Minimum salaries for rookies is set at $610,000 USD and it will rise incrementally year-to-year, reaching $1.065 million USD in 2030, the final year of the bargaining agreement. Approximately 60 percent of employed NFL players each season are on minimum salary contracts.

Those are the types of pacts undrafted free agents and up-and-coming players from the CFL sign. There were a number of Americans who made the jump from three-down ball to at least earn an opportunity in the four-down game during the current off-season. The average CFL salary checks in at approximately $85,000.

Practice roster pay will near $200,000 USD by 2022. That’s high-end money for every position in the CFL, excluding quarterbacks — without accounting for the difference in the U.S. and Canadian dollar, which is drastic. That will entice players to be patient when it comes to seeing if a potential chance comes in the NFL.

Let’s take a current example: Canadian receiver T.J. Jones has agreed in principle to sign with the Toronto Argos and fully intended to ink the contract in February. However, the dispute between the league office and CFL Players’ Association interrupted the finalization. Jones has 45 games of NFL experience and could decide against coming north and try to find a new team south of the border because of the expanded rosters.

Jones wouldn’t be eligible for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie award because of his NFL experience. The new collective bargaining agreement has slotted contracts for nationals based on draft position but Jones was deemed a free agent by the league’s competition committee. It seems clear that Jones should be able to put pen to paper for whatever amount he commands on the open market.

The CFL should be racing to have a ratio-breaking talent such as Jones play in Canada. Reinstating the NFL window was timely and helped players such as Jones look north because one productive season in the CFL can earn another opportunity to make millions in the United States. The three-down league needs to become as enticing as possible because recruiting players just became tougher.

Personnel men around the CFL don’t feel there will be a major talent drain or drop off due to the NFL job increase because there are thousands of NCAA players who want to play professionally each year. Perhaps offering more than minimum salary for a coveted athlete could be done more often.

However it’s accomplished between the nine franchises and appointed front office leadership, teams will have to adjust and search for talent in an ever-evolving pro football landscape.

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