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NFLPA Pushing for Opt-Out Clauses

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-NFLPA Press Conference John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN wrote an excellent article today wherein he lays out the NFLPA’s current positions and requests to the NFL owners with regard to the opening of the 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are, in his words, the requests and contexts that Jeremy Fowler highlights:

The NFL and NFL Players Association continue to negotiate terms for a return to work, and players are requesting financial backing in case they decide to sit out the season.

Among the requests in the players’ recent proposal to the league, according to a source involved:

  • An opt-out clause for at-risk players to receive salary (but not bonuses) if they decide not to play.
  • An opt-out clause for players with at-risk families to earn an accrued season and benefits if they decide not to play.
  • An opt-out clause for players who leave the team after reporting (terms uncertain).
  • A $250,000 stipend guaranteed to all players if they show up to camp and everything is shut down because of COVID-19 concerns. That amount rises to $500,000 if the season starts, only to be shut down.

The definition of “at-risk” is part of the discussion, and procedures for applying for medical opt-outs are not finalized.

If a player is serving a suspension and the season is canceled, the games unserved will not carry into the next season.

The league’s June 7 memo listed the following as considerations for high-risk individuals:

  • African American, Hispanic or Pacific Islander
  • BMI ≥ 28
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hypertension
  • Altered immunity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cardiac disease

According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, players also want no salary in escrow for 2020 and no reduction in the 2021 salary cap, despite projected revenue loss, which they would prefer to spread over multiple years. The league’s initial ask to place 35% of this year’s salaries in escrow is considered a nonstarter.


The considerations for high-risk individuals could very well apply to upwards of 75% of the NFL players. Add in players whose families are at risk and the percentage could be well over 80%.

What if even 50% of the 75-80% of the players elect to opt out? How could the owners afford to pay their base salaries or a decent portion of them in a year where revenue is going to be drastically compromised?

By agreeing to pay decent portions of opt-out players’ base salaries, isn’t that going to make it much more easier for players to opt out?

It certainly is a difficult year for veterans like Patrick Peterson and DeAndre Hopkins whose guaranteed money from their lucrative 2nd contracts with the Cardinals and Texans respectively has been fully paid, and for this season both of their base salaries are in the $12M range, but none of the #12M is guaranteed.

Now, on the flip side, because Peterson and Hopkins have been paid their guaranteed money over the past few years, they should be able to afford to opt out on this season even if they don’t receive a penny of their 2020 base salaries.

Yet, in light of the new highly lucrative contracts of Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones and Myles Garrett, how many of you have wondered when it will be DeAndre Hopkins’ turn? The expectation ever since the trade is that the Cardinals are going to sign Hopkins to a lucrative extension that is apt to include mega-millions inn guaranteed money.

Imagine the ire that Patrick Peterson is likely to feel if Hopkins gets his deal and the Cardinals opt to wait on Peterson’s?

Last year Peterson wanted to get paid during his six week suspension—-thus if he opts out this year (most of you probably noticed that he checks off two boxes on the NFLPA’s list of high-risk considerations), it’s even more likely that he would want to receive some part of his base salary, and like last year, if he doesn’t get paid, he could once again consider it a slight and major dis from the Cardinals’ front office.

But, again, this could get sticky for Peterson. In the owners’ defense, no one really knows at this point how much revenue is going to be lost this season—-or, for that matter, how much of the season will actually take place.

It’s very difficult for anyone to agree to certain terms in the midst of sheer and unprecedented uncertainty.

A Suggestion:

First of all, as I have opined all along, I will fully respect any player’s decision to opt out, for some or all of the considerations that the NFLPA has mapped out.

While I do not think it is feasible for the league to pay the salaries of players who opt out—-and—-if the NFL really wants a good, viable season of quality football this year, then the NFL cannot afford to make it easier for players to opt out, can it?

Another key issue, at least for me, is that players who opt out this year should not be able to count this as an “accrued” year on their current contracts (the NFLPA has asked that players who opt out because of high-risk family situations should not only be paid some of their base salaries, but should be given in his absence an accrued season). This would be tremendously unfair to the player’s team and to the players who do decide to play. Again, the “accrued season” reward would be another incentive for a player to opt out, wouldn’t it?

But—-perhaps—-here is a reasonable solution, in my opinion. If players cannot afford to sit out this season, but feel adamant about not playing, then they should take a short-term loan that they can pay back when they receive their paychecks next season. Those loans should be very easy to obtain (the players can point to their contracts and their collateral in terms of assets)—-and the loan companies should be more than eager to give them.