PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles player rep Malcolm Jenkins forecasts that the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the NFL Players Association and owners "won't be as simple" this time around, now that Jenkins' generation of players has assumed a leadership role.
"That's yet to be seen," Jenkins told ESPN, when asked if he believes these talks will grow contentious. "But I've got a feeling it won't be as simple as it was last time just because you have more players like myself who have been through the lockout before, saw how the NFLPA leadership handled that into where we are now, which I don't think was a bad deal but there is a lot that I feel like we want to get back as players, or get as players."
The current agreement, signed in 2011 following an offseason lockout, expires after the 2020 season.
Talks are expected to begin in early to mid-April, New York Giants owner John Mara said at the NFL's annual meeting last week. In advance of that, a record number of players gathered in Miami recently for the annual player representative meeting.
"We have a big initiative to have a lot of the younger players come in to understand how our union works, understand what that means when it comes to labor negotiations, something that I don't think we really had a grasp on the last time we went into negotiations as a body," Jenkins said, "so it was encouraging to see so many guys there that weren't reps, that had no vote but were there just to have their voices heard and to learn kind of how all those things work."
The meeting also helped establish a list of priorities which, according to Jenkins, includes improving long-term health care, altering the structure of player contracts so they are more secure and less restrictive, and ensuring that as revenue grows, "those gains are being realized by the entire body and not just those at the top."
The 2011 CBA reduced the players' share of revenue from 51 percent to 47 percent, but in return, the players secured concessions such as reduced offseason workloads and post-career health and financial benefits.
Sources tell ESPN's Dan Graziano that increasing the revenue share from that 47 percent mark is important to the players heading into negotiations.
Having been through this process in 2011, Jenkins said leadership is doing a better job of communicating "from team to team and player to player" to educate the body, so that they have a "solidified front" as they enter talks.
Jenkins has further experience in this realm as the co-founder of the Players Coalition, which struck an unprecedented $89 million deal with the league in 2017 to fund social justice initiatives.
"I think it is a small example of having a collective plan and voice, that you can go into negotiations and be strong and come out with something that you want," Jenkins said. "I know at least for me, it gives me a greater understanding of how the league works and how they operate and how they negotiate, but I also understand that we are the game as players. And the same way that we went into negotiations about the social justice work, the work is on us. We are the ones doing it, not them. That is our leverage at the end of the day.
"All of the other things can be negotiated, but there is no game without us. And as soon as players recognize that and leverage that, then I think we come from a much stronger place. But if we always look at dollars and cents then we lose that every time."