With the NFL season finished and the champion crowned, the focus now turns towards the future of the league. Notably, team owners want this future to include a 17-game season — still a contentious issue for players. An extended season would take a serious toll on the pros’ bodies and minds.
As the NFL Players Association prepares to vote on this issue, the league is willing to offer them a lot in order to make this deal happen.
Once again, the NFL will try to implement a 17th game
The debate over the merits of a 17-game season will be a big storyline of the NFL offseason. Negotiations between NFLPA leaders and league owners have been ongoing. But with the 2019-20 season finished, both sides can really sit down and figure out what they want from a new collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires after next season.
It’s easy to see why the league would want to extend the regular season, preferably around the time when the current TV deals are set to expire. One more game means one more week of hot takes, highlights, and ticket sales. The revenue increase from new media contracts would be substantial.
A 17-game NFL season could also lead to two more teams the playoffs. The preseason would be shortened, but that’s a trade every executive would make if given the option. From the fan’s perspective, a 17-game season would allow more fanbases to hope that their team could sneak into the postseason. It’s a great deal for everyone involved — except NFL players.
Why is a longer regular season so dangerous?
Players would get well compensated in this new NFL. The new CBA would give players 48.3% of league revenue for the next 10 years. But the prospect of another game is daunting for one reason: Football really hurts. New England Patriots tight end Ben Watson discussed this predicament before the Super Bowl:
“Health and safety will always be paramount. That’s why we got different changes in the work rules (in 2011) on how much hitting, offseason workouts. For every player, health and safety has to be at the forefront. We all know football is a violent game, beautifully violent. We love to compete, but in that we want to be safe.”
Players are already asked to put extreme stress on their bodies in the name of entertainment and money for teams that don’t always have their best interests at heart. Asking them to do even more — at a time when most contracts are filled with non-guaranteed money — is a tough pill to swallow.
Will the players make a deal?
The only way a 17-game season will happen is if the NFL gives the players a lot more than money in return. According to ESPN, the players have the option to “accept the one thing they hate, a 17-game season, in exchange for 10 or more things they want.” Some of the proposed concessions include:
- Greatly reducing the league’s punishments for positive drug tests, particularly on marijuana
- Modifying the player discipline fine system to be more in the players’ favor
- Increasing the restrictions on team workouts in the offseason and amount of hitting done during training camp and in practice
- Increasing benefits to former players, including a continuation of the legacy fund
So far, the players show little interest in signing off on a 17th game, but both sides are still talking. It would be best for all parties if an agreement is found quickly. If the new CBA is ratified before March 18, then some of the more immediate aspects of the deal can apply to the league at the official start of the new NFL year, before the free agency period begins.
Until a deal is found, both sides will try to get the other to blink first. Is either party willing to miss games in order to get what they want? We’ll find out the answer in the coming months.
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