The vote was close – just a difference of 60 votes out of nearly 2,000 cast – but NFL players have approved the new collective bargaining agreement with the league after balloting closed Saturday night.
It means labor peace through the 2030 season.
The new CBA goes into effect immediately. Among the changes for 2020 will be an additional playoff team in each conference, and there will now been 48 players active on game days instead of 46 (one of the two "new" active players must be an offensive lineman.) Practice squads increase from 10 to 12 players. Padded practice days were also cut down in training camp, from 28 to 16. Minimum salaries were raised. Teams can also now designate three players (up from two) to return from injured reserve each season.
A 17th regular-season game can now be added, but no earlier than the 2021 season. When that happens, the preseason will be cut from four to three games.
The NFL Players Association tweeted the final voting tally was 1,019 votes for the new CBA and 959 against. A simple majority was all that was needed to pass the vote.
Several prominent players had come out against ratifying the new deal, including Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and J.J. Watt. Cardinals Corey Peters and Kenyan Drake had tweeted out their intentions to vote no. Those against the proposal felt the players did not receive enough financially to justify either a 17th game or an agreement that lasts more than a decade.
"Our members have spoken and the CBA has been ratified," new NFLPA president and Browns center J.C. Tretter tweeted. "We pick up a greater share of the revenues, make significant gains on minimum salaries and increase our post-career benefits. For players past, this deal reaches back in an unprecedented way to increase pensions, benefits and make resources available to them.
"We understand that not all deals are perfect, and we don't take the gains we wanted, but couldn't get, lightly. We now must unite and move forward as a union. The interest and passion on the issues that our members have voiced in the past several weeks needs to continue. Our job is neve done and we all must work together as one team to build for a better future."
There was still frustration lingering after the vote.
"This CBA was shortsighted and constructed to benefit the players who made the majority of the league," Drake tweeted. "Yes minimum salary was raised but at the cost of the players who paved the way physically/psychologically just to be short changed w/o a voice to defend their benefits. Sad."
Free agency and the new league year begins Wednesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time, with the free-agent negotiating period ("legal tampering") starting Monday at 9 a.m. Arizona time.
Now that the CBA passes, the salary cap was set for 2020. At $198.2 million, it will rise by $10 million from 2019.
"We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "We appreciate the tireless efforts of the members of the Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA leadership, both of whom devoted nearly a year to detailed, good faith negotiations to reach this comprehensive, transformative agreement."