One of the nice victories for the players in the last CBA negotiation was the quiet inclusion of standard injury protection for all multi-year contracted players. The rules are spelled out in Article 45 (Injury Protection) of the CBA, but the quick gist of it is that a player has 50% of his following year’s salary up to a maximum of $1.2 million guaranteed (in the 2019-2020 League Years) for injury in the event a football injury renders him unable to play. Teams cannot evade any injury protection by releasing a player early. There is also an extended injury protection benefit that covers the second season after an injury up to $575,000.
We believe the players’ goal should be to increase this number in the next CBA and tie raises into the growth of the salary cap. Currently the injury protection raise amounts to just $25,000 a year which kicks in every other year as it is stated in the current CBA. Had the number been tied to the cap it would be at least $1.5 million in 2019 rather than $1.2 million. Still there should be more protection that just $1.5 million.
As a baseline number the players should look to increase the maximums to $3 million for the year after an injury and $1.5 million for two seasons following an injury while keeping the same 50% calculation to determine the actual amount. Growth in the numbers should be tied to the growth of the salary cap the same way RFA tenders, draft slotting, and franchise tags are also tied to growth in the cap. Players should always tie things to the cap when they can and this is no different.
The language in the CBA should also be changed to include most contracted salary rather than just Paragraph 5 base salary. With teams often using offseason roster, reporting, and workout bonuses all three of those items should be fair game and used to determine the base rate at which the 50% salary is determined. Currently just the Paragraph 5 is used to calculate the injury protection number and the P5 base salary alone is no longer representative of too many contracts.
We think players who don’t have future contract years should also be protected though at a lesser level. We would cap that off at 50% of the player’s minimum split salary in the year following an injury, but no protection after that. Just like now these would all be paid by the team on which he suffered an injury and it would count on the salary cap.
This should not be a difficult negotiation for the players, or something they should ignore. We think teams in general are more considerate now of the dangers of the game and would agree to ensure more protection in this regard for players. If you look at the growing number of injury only guarantees agreed to in negotiations for free agents/extensions, one can see that this is an area where NFL owners have been flexible. Partially we believe this is because injury guarantee payouts are a rarer occurrence because of the high threshold to have the kind of injury that prevents a player from basically trying out for a team, but also because teams can take out insurance policies to cover such situations for expensive players. In any event there is no reason to look past injury guarantees if you can get them and this should be an easy one for the players to improve on.