The year's most transformative element in sports (non-coronavirus category) is likely to be the NFL's new collective-bargaining agreement.
The document is 400 pages and passed by an upright-thin margin (51.5% voted in favor) late Saturday night, so we will reserve the right to adjust our thinking in due time. But at the moment it appears to be like pretty much everything else that's happened in the league the last two years:
Very good for at least three reasons, which we'll do in ascending order of importance.
3. Long labor peace.
The deal runs through 2030. That guarantees more than 40 years of labor peace since the last work stoppage and, not insignificantly, means that Patrick Mahomes won't lose any years of his expected athletic prime to another CBA negotiation.
This is undoubtedly the best part of the deal for fans, too, regardless of who they root for.
The players did make progress in some areas. They got more jobs and a higher minimum wage. They gained some health benefits and struck a win for former players. That's all significant. It's just that the 17th game is the greatest point of negotiating leverage they're likely to ever have, and now it's gone without a more significant win in revenue.
Look, I am a strong believer that professional sports are about athletes and that NFL players have (by far) the worst labor deal in major American sports. But I also understand the cruel irony, that the same reasons the players deserve more (short careers, brutal physical toll on bodies) are the same reasons the players can't win a work-stoppage standoff. So any criticism on the players' side is ignoring stubborn realities.
Anyway, apologies for the tangent. The point is we can debate the details.
But for all of us - fans, players, owners, media - the most important thing is uninterrupted football.
We know have that, into the next decade.
2. New playoff format.
Playoff fields will be expanded from six to seven in each conference as soon as the upcoming season. It's hard to imagine the Chiefs not being one of the AFC's best seven teams as long as Mahomes' kneecaps stay in place.
What's more, the Chiefs should expect to be toward the top of the conference most seasons. In Mahomes' two years as a starter, the Chiefs have been seeded first and second. No team in the conference has won more games, and the Chiefs are the NFL's only team to have a first-round bye in each of the last two seasons.
Since 1990, in the two-bye system, nearly 80 percent of conference champions had a first-round bye. The top seeds made the Super Bowl just over half the time.
Adding a wild-card team means byes are reserved for only the No. 1 seeds. The effect of that will be seen in time, but it makes sense that the top seeds' advantage will only grow.
No disrespect to the Ravens, but is there a team in the AFC better positioned to consistently compete for a No. 1 seed than the Chiefs?
The No. 2 seed won't be quite as attractive as it has been, but it also shouldn't be a deal-breaker - they'll play at home against a team that wouldn't have made the postseason in the old system.
1. A bigger salary cap.
Teams positioned to take advantage of a bigger salary cap are those with owners wiling to spend as much as the rules allow, and those with rosters good enough to deserve the maximum spend.
The Chiefs check both those boxes, and a bigger cap is coming at the perfect time.
We've been over this a few times, but the Chiefs have one of the league's most interesting and consequential cap situations. Mahomes will sign the biggest contract in league history, probably soon, which will make the team's remaining cap space particularly precious.
The Chiefs will have "in the 20s" of millions in cap space, according to a source. They can add to that with moves both relatively small ($3 million saved by cutting lineback Damien Wilson, for instance) and big (a $14 million savings by cutting Sammy Watkins).
The Chiefs could give Mahomes a record contract and still have room to give Jones what he's earned.
But that's different than saying the Chiefs should do that, if the tradeoff is precarious depth throughout the rest of the roster. Just think about this past season, with all the injuries - where would the Chiefs have been without depth across the defensive line?
The new CBA might give the Chiefs a workaround.
First, and this is a little wonky but mechanically important: the new CBA eliminates the 30 percent rule, which had limited the raises or paycuts players could have.
That creates extra flexibility, particularly since an expected bonanza when the NFL sells extra football and long-term labor stability to the networks in a few years should mean a significantly bigger salary cap.
With that in mind, here is one potential framework for Jones: five years with $70 million in guarantees that would be paid mostly in two big chunks.
Jones could get $25 million or so up front, which is always the most important thing for players, and another $25 million or so paid in 2022 or 2023 - when the new TV deals increase the cap.
Jones gets what he's worth (and 10% more than the Chiefs gave Frank Clark) and the Chiefs are able to maintain some flexibility now. Jones may be sacrificing some money up front, and the Chiefs are tying more of their cap than is ideal (some 25% for 2020) into two pass rushers.
In other words: both sides gain, and both sides give.
That's how the CBA was done, after all, and it could be the Chiefs' path toward their best future.