Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk published an article on Saturday that says the NFL could have a new CBA agreed to between owners and the NFLPA before the Super Bowl kicks off on February 2nd.
The article indicates that the only significant obstacle remaining is the question of expanding the schedule to a 17-game season.
The biggest complicating factor regarding economics comes from the NFL’s desire to expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games. Per the source, a 17-game season is “likely, not definitively” part of the new deal.
Underscoring the momentum toward a 17-game season? The source explained that, if the regular season were to remain at 16 games, the new CBA already will be done.
The NFL has, throughout its 100-year history managed to expand the sport and its popularity by cautiously expanding the number of teams, the length of the season, and the size of the rosters. Adding an extra game to the season would likely provide a huge financial windfall to the league. To agree to such a move, the NFLPA is going to want significant concessions that benefit its members, which could take the form of increased share of the revenue, increased rosters, or improved benefits.
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If history is any guide, the owners will eventually give the players what they want in order to secure the expanded schedule and its associated revenue.
Many proponents of the expanded schedule for regular season games have suggested that the move be linked to other changes, such as a reduction in pre-season games from four to two, and the addition of a second bye-week in the regular season schedule.
If these things all happened in conjunction, the owners would benefit from, not just one, but two additional weeks of televised games, as the extra game plus the bye week would expand the season from its current 17-week format to a new 19-week format, with a shorter pre-season.
There has been speculation that teams might substitute controlled scrimmages in the preseason training schedule to offset the loss of preseason games.
While the expansion of the schedule is a huge headline issue, it is not likely to be the only change that will come with a new CBA. Among the issues that have been rumored or reported to be on the table for discussion have been changes to or elimination of testing for marijuana use, changes to the rookie contract system that was put in place with the 2011 CBA, changes to or elimination of the 5th year option, and adjustment of the revenue sharing formula between owners and players. There are other issues that players would like addressed, but which the owners reportedly have shown no willingness to entertain, such as mandatory fully guaranteed contracts and elimination of the franchise tag system.
If, as PFT suggests, the CBA is approved in the coming weeks, it will have a large impact on the business of the NFL, whether or not it addresses the question of expanding the number of regular season games.