The new collective bargaining agreement voting, or ratification and approval of a proposed extension and agreement, was completed late Saturday night but everyone in the NFL sports world had to wait until early Sunday morning to find out the official results. While the CBA passed, it was far from a unanimous vote among representatives. In a time when sports fans, athletes, owners, the NFLPA, and the National Football League are concerned about the upcoming season due to COVID-19 fears and the cancellations of other national sports league play, the agreement eased some stress over labor negotiations and may provide the Pittsburgh Steelers some breathing room in an offseason that was already, financially, going to be distressing.
The final vote, according to several sources, had 1019 voting 'yes' for the ratified agreement compared to 959 'no' votes.
The final vote: 1019 YES against 959 NO. So, very close, but a new CBA is passed and agreed to.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2020
Shortly after news that the agreement had been made, Steelers President Art Rooney II released the following official statement:
"We are excited to have come to terms with the NFLPA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that I believe is fair for the players, teams, and our fans. Many people worked very hard at finalizing this agreement. It is a win-win arrangement that will allow the NFL to continue to grow and provide significant increased benefits to both current and retired players.
It is great that we can now move forward and allow the focus to remain on our team's preparations for free agency, the draft, and then the 2020 season without any disruptions associated with the absence of a new labor agreement."
The agreement does not, however, offer a large increase in the 2020 league year salary cap. The NFL set the cap at $198.2 million; the number much lower than many insiders and experts had predicted. Under the new agreement teams will see an increase in minimum salaries for a significant number of their players, putting the screws to organizations with already tight cap situations. Unfortunately, the Steelers are one of those teams.
Prior to Monday's moves, per OverTheCap.com, the Steelers already had a total cap liability of $211,000,214 and just $3,075,625 in team cap space. Of those players currently under contract in Pittsburgh, 36 are slated to see their base salary increase under the new agreement (around $3,300,000 in combined salary). Whether all 36 of those players remain with the team or not remains to be seen but it paints a picture of the type of offseason moves the Steelers might make. While $3.1 million of last year's unused space will carry over, there is still $2,568,962 in dead money to account for per the site.
In an attempt to simplify this for the common fan who isn't a number-cruncher, the Steelers will need to clear around $10-12 million in space to get under the cap. They can do that by restructuring several contracts with something that was added to the new CBA: the erasure of the 30% Rule. With the rule removed, the Steelers potentially can save a significant amount (some estimates feel around $30-35 M) from the restructuring of contracts with more veteran players than previously would have been available.
Without the 30% Rule, teams will have the ability to create and structure contracts that will have a one-year cap hit that is a lot less painful. And they'll be able to move some of the money forward into future seasons that may look a tad more optimistic, signing-wise, with what many are saying should be a significant increase in wiggle room/cap space for Pittsburgh beyond this upcoming league year.
The Steelers wasted little time on the first day available to start to use the little breathing room they've been given to attempt to create the amount of revenue they'll need to be able to field a competitive team through the 2020-21 NFL season. They have until 4 p.m. Wednesday (March 18) to get under the salary cap.
The Steelers placed the franchise tag on outside linebacker Bud Dupree before they released backup linebacker Anthony Chickillo, inside linebacker Mark Barron, and backup receiver Johnny Holton. The Steelers essentially freed up just over $11 million with those releases.
Although it's always bitter-sweet to see a long-time Steelers player leave the game, offensive guard Ramon Foster announced he would retire after 11 years in the NFL. Foster's retirement provided around $4 million more in cap space for the Steelers.
Ramon Foster has informed the #Steelers that he is retiring from the NFL.
Fantastic 11-year career on and off of the field for the former undrafted free agent out of Tennessee. (Via his Instagram) pic.twitter.com/2ojYDfxM9D
— Zach Metkler (@GZSports_ZM) March 16, 2020
The Steelers look to stay busy right up until the deadline. Several sources, including Adam Caplan of NFL.com, say Pittsburgh is actively restructuring deals.
Source: #Steelers are restructuring deals in order to create salary cap space.
Latest is TE Vance McDonald. He agreed to convert his $5.5m base salary to signing bonus.
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 16, 2020
If Vance McDonald were to come to an agreement with the Steelers as rumored, Pittsburgh will be well on its way to utilizing the new CBA in their favor while still offering a fair future to players they feel will combine for a championship-caliber team this season with an eye on a future that could see other veterans, such as Ben Roethlisberger, finalizing their careers and the Steelers taking on a new look.