DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, understands that there are doubters about the deal that players got in the latest collective bargaining agreement, but he feels that the gains are “huge.”

Players narrowly voted 1,019-959 to approve the proposed CBA, which will expand the season to 17 games and ensures labor peace through the 2030 season.

“Vote is close because you had a group of people who certainly cared about certain issues in the collective bargaining agreement,” Smith said on the ESPN Daily podcast Monday.

Smith cited increases in salaries and benefits for current players as wins in the new deal but also said that retired players got something too.

“In a country where virtually no large company is certainly creating new pensions and certainly not increasing pensions, we are a large corporation in the United States that not only has secured pensions for another three, four generations of players, but also increased the pensions of every former player prior to 2011 and bringing them up to a 2011 standard for their pensions — those things are huge,” he said.

Admitting that the 17-game season was a trade players had to make, Smith said he believes that striking a deal this year was in the best interest of his union members.

“The leverage that we had now was strong and it’s known leverage,” he said. “We know when the TV contracts expire. We know what the economy was projected to look like and that was even before the things that have happened in the last 72 hours. I certainly hear people who say, ‘Look, you guys are going to have as much if not more leverage next year.’ Well the only thing I would say to that is negotiating a deal where if the answer is ‘no’ that you find yourself out of work I would argue that is less leverage than what we have now.”

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