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Executive director DeMaurice Smith, of the NFL Players Association, speaks at the annual state of the union news conference on Jan. 30, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla.Chris Carlson/The Associated Press

The deadline for applying franchise and transition tags to free agents has been moved from Thursday to Monday by the league and players’ union.

With the NFL Players Association’s members still voting on a new labour agreement the owners already have approved – that deadline was extended by two days to 11:59 p.m. EDT on Saturday – leaving the last time to use the tags at Thursday made little sense.

By moving it to 11:59 a.m. EDT on Monday, both sides hope to know whether they are operating under a new collective bargaining agreement or the current deal, which expires in March 2021. That contract has different parameters for franchise and transition players than does the current one.

The period in which player agents can negotiate with teams remains set to begin at noon EDT Monday. The league’s business year starts March 18, when free-agent deals and trades can officially take place.

While these deadline revisions might be problematic for owners and league executives and annoying for fans, there is flexibility. The NFL could delay the opening of the 2020 league year beyond March 18 – though not for too long – should the players approve the new CBA. That would allow implementation of the many changes that would apply to the upcoming off-season, pre-season and regular season.

Should the players reject the new deal – which features 17 regular-season games – the owners have indicated there won’t be more negotiations anytime soon. Nor would many of the benefits in the agreement that would run through the 2030 season be included in a different CBA proposal.

Those benefits include:

  • The player share of league revenue, currently at 47%, would rise to at least 48% starting in 2021.
  • Padded practices in training camp would be reduced from 28 to 16, with a five-day acclimation period preceding summer practices. There would be more mandatory days off during camp and a limit on joint practices with other clubs.
  • The 17th regular-season game would trigger an elimination of the fourth pre-season game.
  • Active rosters would expand from 53 to 55 players, with the option of calling up to two players from the practice squad per week. Game-day active lists would increase from 46 to 48 players, provided at least eight offensive linemen are included. Practice squads would go from 10 to 12 players immediately, with a jump to 14 players in 2022.
  • Player paychecks would spread over a 36-week period each year once the 17-game schedule – which is 18 weeks including byes – is implemented. Currently, players are paid in 17-week installments for the 16-game schedule.

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