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Unpacking NFL-NFLPA restart plan, what it could mean for Jaguars

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Training camp is set to start on time after the NFLPA approved plan to return.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-NFLPA Press Conference Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the NFL took a major step towards starting its season on time with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) board of representatives voting to approve the proposed amendments to the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) “to protect our players’ health, safety and financial well-being,” the NFLPA said in a statement.

The approved plan passed with a 29-3 vote after the executive board voted unanimously to approve the changes need to both hopefully assure the safety of its players and their economics for the foreseeable future.

With that said, the plan will affect all teams in various ways, including the Jaguars.

In order to come to a better understanding of what this means for teams moving forward, we broke down the changes in four separate parts: training camp start times, salary cap ramifications along with the ability for players to “opt out” of the season, preseason games and changes to overall roster structure.

All information provided was obtained from multiple reports.

Training camp to open as scheduled, sort of

“The NFL clubs and the NFL Players Association approved an agreement that broadly resolves all outstanding issues relating to the opening of training camps and the start of the 2020 season. Training camps will begin as scheduled,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement on Friday.

“We have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive set of protocols designed to minimize risk for fans, players, and club and league personnel. These plans have been guided by the medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA and have been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical and public health experts, including the CDC, and many state and local public health officials.

“The season will undoubtedly present new and additional challenges, but we are committed to playing a safe and complete 2020 season, culminating with a Super Bowl.”

The Jaguars and all other 31 teams in the NFL will begin initial COVID-19 testing this week with the rookies reporting beginning on July 21, quarterbacks and injured players reporting on July 23 and with all other players scheduled to report for training camp and testing next week on July 28.

The NFL anticipates multiple positive results, and according to a report from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NFLPA told its players that 12 rookies have tested positive for COVID-19 leaguewide in the initial round of screening.

“Those are results from the nine NFL teams that have gotten back results from their initial round of screening,” Pelissero reported via Twitter.

While players will all have “reported” to training camp, however, they will not be able to enter the facility without receiving two negative tests for COVID-19, which will be given 72 hours apart. There will also be an acclimation period of 20 days before they start participating in any practices, which will give players time to get back into football shape, according to ESPN.

As of July 24, the Jaguars and 22 other teams in the NFL have yet to have their IDER plan approved, meaning only 20 or fewer players will be allowed at the facility at a time, the Jaguars will be using time slots to accommodate testing for all veterans and players reporting.

Following testing, there will be eight days of strength and conditioning with non-contact practices beginning on the 16th day of camp. Padded practices will begin on day 21, all dates up to this point are flexible, and not yet fully determined.

Salary cap ramifications, opt-out rule

Due to severely-reduced fan attendance and other sponsorship opportunities, the Jaguars, all teams and its players, will inevitably lose money. As such, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a decrease in the salary cap for 2021 to make up for the expected loss of revenue. The salary cap for 2020 ($198.2M) will remain, however, the potential, estimated losses of around $3B will be spread over the next four seasons.

In 2021, the salary cap will be no less than $175M, as agreed upon by both governing bodies and the remainder of losses will spread from 2022 to 2024.

For the Jaguars, they were slated to have an estimated $72,501,416 in cap space, according to spotrac.com. If the anticipated salary cap loss from $198.2M to $175M comes to fruition the Jaguars could have roughly $49.3M in cap space. The alternative to this plan would have been for the teams to take all of the loss of revenue via salary cap hits this season, which would have had plenty of roster ramifications for all 32 teams.

The NFL will also be offering players an opportunity to “opt out” of the 2020 season in the event a player does not feel comfortable playing this season given the potential for them to contract the virus. Players who choose to opt out will not be given their paragraph 5 salary.

This applies to all players, however most importantly “high-risk” players with pre-existing conditions that have been found to potentially exacerbate the effects of the virus.

Players who choose to opt out voluntarily will be given a stipend of $150,000, while medical opt outs will be given a stipend of $350,000. This clause is irrevocable, if a player opts out, he will not be able to opt back in.

One player, Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman, Laurent Devernay-Tardif, has already decided to opt out.

No preseason games

As discussed earlier this week, the NFL and NFLPA have decided to forego all preseason games for the 2020 season. This will have serious ramifications on individuals deemed to be “bottom-of-the-roster” players. The Jaguars have historically used the undrafted free agent market to uncover diamonds in the rough, without preseason games there will be less available methods of evaluation.

Roster-size changes

The NFL and NFLPA have decided to allow for the reduction of preseason rosters from 90 to 80; teams will have until Aug. 16 to make their reductions, however, according to ESPN team’s will be allowed to retain 90 in the event they hold a split-squad setup during camp; some teams already have plans to divide rosters, using the stadium and practice facilities for camp.

For the Jaguars, they’ll need to make some tough decisions. This season, the team anticipates 30 rookies (12 drafted and 18 undrafted free agents) to report. It is quite possible that 8-10 of those undrafted rookies never see the roster, although there is a chance a veteran or two is released as well.

This, combined with the lack of preseason games does not bode well for rookies and could lead to some undrafted players who were “long shots” opting out of the season, willing to take the stipend and assume the risk involved with sitting out a year. The inherent risk involved here would be that if a player does not make a roster next year, he will owe the team what they have paid for in advance due to the opt out.

Finally, according to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones, the NFL will be expanding practice squads from 12 to 16, and teams can put up to six veterans, without concern for experience, on it for 2020.

According to The Washington Posts’s Mark Maske, four of the now-16 practice squad players can be protected by the team on a week-to-week basis.

This could be intriguing. If the Jaguars were to utilize the extra four practice squad spots, they could, in theory, retain four veterans not signed as potential “replacement players” on their practice squad without having to reach into the open market midseason. A replacement quarterback, for example, could make sense for Jacksonville.