Details of the CFL’s new CBA: salary cap increases, ratio changes, and guaranteed contracts

Photo courtesy: CFL

The Canadian Football League Players’ Association has ratified a new collective bargaining agreement ahead of the CFL’s self-imposed Thursday deadline.

Pertinent details of the new were shared in a private report to players ahead of the ratification vote this evening, including a breakdown of the league’s future salary cap.

According to images of the document shared by Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, CFL teams will be subject to a salary cap of $5.35 million in 2022, an increase of $50,000 from the previous cap ceiling. The cap will then increase by $160,000 in 2023, followed by a jump of $75,000 in 2024.

The cap will rise by $100,000 in each of the next three seasons, before a minimum increase of $25,000 in 2028. That will bring the salary cap in the final year of the seven-year agreement to a minimum of $5,998,889, however, players will be given the choice to opt out of the agreement following the expiry of the league’s broadcast deal with TSN.

The lowered cap increases in 2024 and 2028 have been used to pay the players a total ratification bonus of $1.225 million, one of the primary issues which resulted in the rejection of the league’s previous CBA proposal. All nine teams will be given $136,111 to distribute to players.

In addition to the standard salary cap increases, players will begin receiving revenue-sharing benefits in 2024, with the CFLPA deciding on the disbursement of revenue increases. Players will be entitled to 25 percent of revenue in 2024, with staged increases up to 30 percent until the end of the agreement. Grey Cup revenue — which was previously excluded — has been included in that equation.

The CFL minimum salary will increase to $70,000 in 2023 and $75,000 in 2027. That minimum will apply to players regardless of roster designation — National, American and Global. Global players were previously limited to contracts of $54,000, lower than the league minimum.

The deal contains several changes to the league’s Canadian ratio, with teams required to start eight National players in 2023, an increase from seven in 2022. One of those players can be a “Nationalized American” — defined as a player who has spent a minimum of three years in the same city or five in the CFL.

Two additional Nationalized Americans can substitute for a National starter for up to 49 percent of snaps in a game. These two players cannot play on the same side of the ball. The league has the option, at its own discretion, to increase the number of Nationalized American substitutes to three beginning in 2024.

Beginning with the 2024 CFL Draft, the two teams that play true Nationals for the highest percentage of snaps will receive an additional second-round pick. These will be in lieu of the current territorial selections given to the league’s two worst teams.

The new agreement also implements partially guaranteed contracts for the first time in league history. A player that has played through their rookie deal may now guarantee up to 50 percent of the final year of any subsequent contract, so long as it is a multi-year deal signed with his original CFL club.

On health and safety, players’ rehab entitlements will increase to four years post-retirement in 2022 and five years in 2023. This accompanies the return of in-season padded practices, with teams allowed to practice in pads for 45 minutes once per week up to a maximum of 12 times in a season.

Among the miscellaneous items of interest to fans, Canadian players returning from the NFL with more than three years of experience will no longer be required to sign slotted rookie contracts. Each year of NFL service will count towards one season of their CFL rookie deal. The deal also preserves the existing NFL opt-out window for current CFL players.

Commencing in 2023, the CFL will have the option to move the season up by as much as 30 days. They will also be instituting a new code of conduct applicable to both players and fans, which will cover all forms of racism and discrimination prohibited by provincial human rights codes.

In a COVID-related amendment, the league has agreed to place any player unable to travel in-season due to government regulations regarding their vaccination status on the suspended list for as long as they are ineligible.