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NFL players approve new CBA

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In what was an extremely close vote, the NFL Player's association voted to approve the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The owners proposed it and it took the players about two weeks to vote and approve. When I say close, I mean close like you and 20 of your closest friends in a phone booth close. The final tally was 1019 to 959. Yes folks, 60 votes decided the fate of the NFL players for the next 10 years! So, what does this actually mean?

17 game schedule

The 17 game schedule will take place between the 2021 and 2023 seasons per the window agreed upon. Why the window? The new television contracts will be in place by then, which will allow the new money from those deals to infuse into the new split of league revenue between owners and players. How will they figure the 17th game into the schedule? Personally, I think it should be a rivalry game and they should market it like college football does. The NFL loves their marketing campaigns. I can see it now: "Rivalry Week presented by _____"

A seventh playoff team in each conference

This change will take place this upcoming season. By adding a seventh team, it will give the bye to only the first overall seed in each conference. We're either going to see a lot more crappy teams make it and get blown out, or a low seed hit its stride and upset a two seed who would've gotten a bye previously. This means more playoff football, but of what quality? Are we truly going to get better games Wildcard Weekend?

Rosters expanding

With adding a game to the regular season, it was natural to expand rosters to offset wear and tear. Practice squads will grow to 14 by 2022, active gameday rosters will now be 48 instead of 46, and weekly rosters can be 55 instead of 53 by elevating two practice squad guys every week to main roster. This will hopefully be enough to offset wear and tear. But my question will be are they willing to make adjustments to this model by examining the injury data?

Revenue split

The players will eventually get a 48.5% share of league revenue once the escalators finish kicking in before the 2022 season starts. this brings them in line with what other major sportd leagues are getting now. Cinsidering they play the most violent game, it's well-deserved. NFL owners have long gotten away with non-guaranteed contracts. Hopefully this'll ease some tensions of the close vote.

Other Takeaways

The changes in disciplinary and drug policies are huge as well. Most notably, THC positive tests are bumped up to 150 nanograms from 35. There's now a neutral decision maker for all commissioner related disciplinary decisions. Players have always thought Roger Goodell had too much authority as judge, jury, and executioner. These two things alone were big wins for the players. Not to mention the lessening of padded practices in training camp and regular season. Adding that to the fact that there's one less preseason game and a limit on how many hours players can spend at the facility per day, it seems as if they took some player safety measures.

While the fallout isn't fully clear, I imagine there will be some. So many players took hard stances for or against this that it's inevitable we'll see some fallout of the same variety. We get more meaningful football, but will it hold quality? We also have to make some adjustments to what we deem successful seasons as far as numbers are concerned. Per game averages will hold more weight. On the bright side, we won't have to get nervous about a work stoppage for another 10 years. Cheers to more football!

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Should Watson be in the MVP conversation? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 NFL season has a lot going on. Even if we take the coronavirus out of it, there's still a lot to digest. There are so many great performances being put up, one can make an argument for several players to win league MVP. The quarterback position typically gets more credit than others. If I restrict the argument to quarterbacks only, we're looking at Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry are the leading contenders at running back. On defense, there really isn't a standout defender. The defense gets no love, but there are several guys in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Deshaun Watson has been putting up numbers that have matched or rivaled some of the top MVP candidates over his last seven games. That stretch has coincided with the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. Coincidence? I think not. Taking the reigns off a wild horse can often lead to said horse running free and flourishing! So question: Should Watson be getting league MVP considerations? I think so.

For starters, he's been one of the best players in the league over the course of the last seven games. 18 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. The only quarterback with a better touchdown to interception ratio over that same span is Mahomes (19 and 2, as opposed to Watson's 18 & 2). Factoring in total season stats, of course Mahomes is doing much better. He's on a better team with a much better coach and general manager. The same could be said for Wilson and Rodgers. Put Watson on any of those teams and their records wouldn't be any worse than what they are now.

The Texans are 4-3 since firing O'Brien. While that isn't a great record, consider the fact they started the season 0-4 and looked like a total disaster. Watson looked like he was caged and couldn't wait to be freed. The team's record could be even better if the defense had a pulse. The proper supporting cast has a lot to do with a player's MVP candidate's chances. Now that one of his favorite weapons, Will Fuller, and the team's best corner, Bradley Roby, are both suspended for the rest of the season by the league for violating the substance abuse/PED policy, things will get much tougher for Watson.

If he continues to put up these cartoon like numbers, I don't see why he wouldn't be in the MVP conversation. He's currently fopurth in passing yards, sixth in completion percentage, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns, eighth in QBR, and third in quarterback rating. Watson is emerging as the star he was projected to be coming into the 2017 draft. I'm not saying Watson deserves to be the league MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. His MVP candidacy should be treated like the family gathering hierarchy: once you reach a certain age and/or status, you're no longer resigned to the kiddie table. Now you get to sit with all the adults, engage in their conversations, and gain access to things you couldn't previously. Watson won't win the MVP award, but I strongly believe he could finish top five. Especially if he keeps making lemonade with the lemons he's been given.

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