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New head coach contracts point towards possible NFL lockout in 2021

Teams who have hired new coaches this month are focusing on financial details for the 2021 season in case a lockout where to happen, which seems likely at this point.

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

If you’ve been paying attention to some of the contracts the NFL’s newest head coaching hires have signed this month, you would’ve noticed how they’re structured similarly to that of a first-round pick of the past eight years — or the lifespan of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA.

Matt Lafleur, Kliff Kingsbury and Bruce Arians were the first three head coaching hires of this circuit. All three of them signed a four-year deal with a fifth-year option at the end, congruent to that of a first-round pick.

The bigger story that’s hidden in the details is how NFL teams are framing these deals in the event of a lockout occurring at the conclusion of the current CBA in 2021, which is exactly what happened in 2011. ESPN insider Adam Schefter is hearing teams are preparing for this as if it will be inevitable:

In coaching contracts negotiated in the past week, teams are addressing how much each coach would make -- or lose -- in the event of a work stoppage, according to sources. Teams are trying to protect themselves and save money in the event of missed time, using different percentages for amounts of the football season that could be missed in 2021.

The NFLPA also weighed in and confirmed that similar contract structuring occurred in the years before the 2011 lockout as well:

Using those four-year deals as examples, the third year is where teams are trying to protect their finances in the case that a work stoppage occurs. If this is happening with coaching contracts, then it will surely be seen again in free agency this year.

For the majority of market-setting free agent deals, five years has been the standard length with guaranteed money being heavily distributed within the first three or even two years. For deals signed this year, that third year has a red circle around it, and certain offsets and provisions could be utilized in the language for that season to ensure teams won’t be losing value from a deal signed two years prior.

The upcoming CBA negotiations will focus a lot on guaranteed money in veteran contracts, and the salary cap as a whole. If similar rumblings of a lockout are being heard like last time, it seems we’ll be in for some form of a work stoppage in three seasons.