Might the NFL and its players union be preparing to sign off on a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement that would expand the regular season and the playoffs?
That was the gist on Thursday, as NFL owners gathered in New York and voted to approve a proposed new deal. ESPN reported that the vote was not unanimous, but the deal did pass. The Eagles declined comment on how they voted.
The NFL Players Association will reportedly have a conference call with its executive board and player representatives Friday to discuss the proposal.
The league issued a statement Thursday afternoon that players and teams "have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players -- past, present and future -- both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL’s second century is even better and more exciting for the fans.
“The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new collective bargaining agreement. The Player Association would also need to agree to the same terms for there to be a new agreement.”
NFLPA president Eric Winston tweeted to players that “your player leadership has been working tirelessly. This is a business deal and no deal is finalized until the players vote.”
From a fan’s point of view, the most pertinent changes would seem to be expanded playoffs, from 12 to 14 teams, something that reportedly could happen as soon as this coming season; and a 17-game regular season with only three preseason games, a change that reportedly would not be implemented right away.
The owners’ proposal calls for seven playoff teams from each conference, only one of which would receive a first-round bye, according to an ESPN report. That would create a six-game wild-card weekend. The current playoff format has been in place since 2002, and the number of playoff teams hasn’t changed since 1990.
Playoff expansion apparently was not a contentious issue; the focal point of the discussions between players and owners is adding a regular-season game to an already brutal grind, along with the revenue that would create and how it would be distributed. According to reports, the players’ 47% revenue share would increase to 48.5% under the 17-game format, giving the players an additional $5 billion.
Given the stakes, this all seems a bit hasty, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see adjustments to proposals being tossed back and forth for the next week or so, with the league gathering next week in Indianapolis for the annual NFL scouting combine. But there definitely seems to be momentum toward reaching agreement before the start of the new league year March 18.