Houston, we have a problem? Texans star J.J. Watt voices 'hard no' on NFL's labor proposal

Charles RobinsonNFL columnist
Yahoo Sports

In a move that ruffled the feathers of some rank-and-file NFL players who just wanted a chance to get on the phone and ask questions about the league’s latest labor proposal, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt wasted little time shooting down the term sheet that was exchanged between the NFL and players union.

“Hard no on that proposed CBA,” Watt tweeted, shortly after NFL agents received copies of the proposed terms that were green-lit by team owners on Thursday. Watt’s post was quickly retweeted by Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris.

What became clear late Thursday night was that some players were quick to express concern over various parts of the NFL’s latest offer, including a revenue split that still remains below 50 percent, little improvement on contract guarantees, virtually no changes to a restrictive franchise tag and a $250,000 cap on the additional 17th game check from an expansion of the regular season.

Problem with Game 17’s paycheck

That game check cap could be concerning for star players who signed long-term deals since the beginning of the 2019 free-agent period because they have the highest likelihood of making it to the 2022 season when a 17-game schedule would theoretically begin. Essentially, any player earning more than $250,000 a game (or $4.25 million in base salary) would be playing their 17th game of the season for a discount.

Under their current contract structures, a litany of superstars would fall into that “capped check” territory, including the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack, the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald and Jared Goff, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz and a swath of others.

Interestingly, neither Watt nor Harris would fall into the capped check territory, with Watt’s current deal ending after the 2021 season and Harris expected to sign a free-agent deal this offseason. The capped check will trap only those players who signed deals before the new CBA and who play for those deals into 2022.

It’s not known exactly what Watt doesn’t like in the new CBA proposal, which includes a handful of player-friendly measures. Two players who spoke with Yahoo Sports on Thursday night expressed frustration that a player of Watt’s stature spoke out against the deal prior to a Friday conference call with the NFLPA that would determine if the league’s 32 player representatives would pass the CBA offered by the team owners on to a larger vote, including the entire NFL player membership.

“I wish we could get on the phone [with the union] and ask some questions before people start shooting things down already,” one player said.

A few high-profile agents expressed dismay about the proposal either privately or on Twitter, suggesting that the union hadn’t won enough concessions on cornerstone issues like salary guarantees and pushing the revenue split to a 50-50 share. But some also echoed the sentiment that it’s premature to tear apart the league’s offer before speaking with union leadership about what is on the table.

The union is expected to hold a conference call Friday and likely determine whether the NFL’s deal has enough merit to pass to the full player membership. For the full vote to take place, two-thirds of the league’s 32 player representatives have to vote in favor of advancing the CBA proposal to the next phase.

J.J. Watt voiced a rebuke of the NFL's term sheet for the new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
J.J. Watt voiced a rebuke of the NFL's term sheet for the new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

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