Tentative deal gives Americans incentive to remain with CFL teams

TORONTO — The tentative agreement between the CFL and CFL Players’ Association gives American players more incentive to stay in the league.

According to two sources, the proposed three-year deal includes provisions for Americans to be deemed Canadian after as little as three years. Internationals who spent three years on one CFL team will be considered Canadian in their fourth years while Americans who spent four seasons north with more than one club will be considered a national upon their fifth season.

Both scenarios are aimed at protecting veteran Americans and giving them more reason to stay put. Canadian starters — especially offensive linemen — are among the league’s highest-paid players after No. 1 quarterbacks.

For years, CFL general managers have lamented there’s not enough good Canadian talent to go around the league. This would not only boost the Canadian content but also provide a more solid base considering the expansion Atlantic Schooners could begin play as soon as 2020.

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association reached a tentative deal early Wednesday after two straight marathon bargaining sessions. They met into the night Monday, reconvened early Tuesday and continue talking until early Wednesday morning before coming to terms.

The new deal is pending ratification by the players and acceptance by the league’s board of governors. CFL officials were expected to approve it at a board meeting Wednesday in Toronto.

The CFLPA presented the agreement to team reps Wednesday and it was expected to then be given to the union membership later on.

A ratification vote date hasn’t been divulged but is not expected to be held until sometime next week. The current contract is set to expire Saturday.

With a tentative deal in place, players are expected to report for the start of CFL training camps Sunday.

Other proposals reportedly in the tentative deal, according to the sources, include:

— A rookie salary scale that’s said to start at $85,000 for the first overall pick, then go down from there depending upon draft position. Currently there’s no rookie cap in the CFL.

— A proposal to incorporate a “global” player.

— Players to receive three years of medical coverage, up from just one year currently. Health and safety was a majority priority during bargaining for the CFLPA.

— Canadian quarterbacks to count towards the Canadian ratio of 21 nationals on each team’s game-day roster. The current deals calls for three quarterbacks of any nationality on the roster. The Canadian ratio will remain constant throughout the new agreement.

— Players to receive 20 per cent of revenues from the CFL TV deal as well as commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s CFL 2.0 initiative.

— CFL salary cap to continue to increase by $50,000 annually. Minimum salaries are to increase to $65,000 from $54,000 in second year of new deal.

The tentative agreement would run concurrent to the CFL’s television contract with TSN, which goes through the ‘21 campaign. It also gives both sides time to see what fruit the 2.0 initiative bears.

Acceptance of the deal would eliminate the prospect of an ugly two-tiered CFL player strike. Had there been no deal reached by Saturday, players with the B.C. Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes would’ve been in a legal strike position come the start of training camp Sunday and wouldn’t have reported.

Players on CFL teams in Alberta (Edmonton and Calgary) and Ontario (Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton) would’ve had to show up because they wouldn’t have been in a legal strike position until May 23. But that’s when the union could’ve orchestrated a full work stoppage.

However, Ramsay continually stated the CFLPA’s top priority always was to secure a fair and equitable deal with the CFL.

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