NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith sent a letter Tuesday to all certified NFL player agents asking them to encourage their players to save money in the event of a work stoppage in 2021.
"We are advising players to plan for a work stoppage of at least a year in length," Smith wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. "We are also encouraging players to save 50% of their salary and bonuses and to save the entirety of their Performance Based Pay amounts they should earn over the next two regular seasons."
While this is the first time the union has made such an appeal via the agents, a union source stressed that the message was no different from those Smith has delivered in public speeches or directly to players during his periodic meetings with individual teams. The union also does not want the letter to be interpreted as a sign that negotiations on a new CBA are going poorly. Those discussions between the NFLPA and the NFL are in a nascent stage, and people on both sides are optimistic that a new deal can be struck without a work stoppage by the time the current CBA ends in the spring of 2021.
Another union source describes the letter as "part of our ongoing message to negotiate for the best but prepare for the worst."
As Smith points out in the letter, having players save their money isn't just a sound rainy-day strategy; it's a potentially helpful negotiating technique. If owners see players as desperate for money, it could be easier for them to hold firm in negotiations.
"Having a membership that is financially stable will only increase the chances of NFLPA player leadership getting a new CBA that will benefit not only players currently in the NFL but also the players that come after them and the ones that came before them," Smith wrote.
Smith met last week with agents for players who were invited to the NFLPA's Rookie Premiere Event in Los Angeles and spoke about establishing a savings plan for rookies.
The relationship between the NFLPA and player agents has been contentious in recent years. Smith has fueled the fire with public suggestions that agents might not be necessary, and agents bristled last year at the union's requirement that they all take a test to reestablish their certification. Agents also have not been shy about expressing their own beliefs that Smith and the NFLPA negotiated a bad deal for the players the last time around. A small group of agents attended part of the NFLPA's annual meeting in March after the players invited them to discuss priorities and potential negotiating strategies for the current CBA talks. There were conflicting reports on how that meeting went.