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Volume 26 No. 207
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NFL Proposal Eyes '22 For 17-Game Regular Season Expansion

An option to expand regular season is part of the NFL's proposed new CBA, and the "likeliest time" that the "lever would be pulled" on a 17-game regular season is '22, according to Michael Silver of NFL Network. But some players already have "spoken out strongly against it" (NFL.com, 2/20). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour wonders, "Is this the NFL's way of making a London (or Mexico) franchise happen?" With the proposed plan, every team "gets eight games at home, eight on the road and one in a neutral, foreign site." Either that, or 49ers CB Richard Sherman was "onto something when he said a 17-game schedule was just the gateway to the 18-game slate the owners have long coveted" (USA TODAY, 2/21).

Bakhtiari questioned the imbalance in the revenue split between owners and players in a tweet he posted
Photo: getty images
Bakhtiari questioned the imbalance in the revenue split between owners and players in a tweet he posted
Photo: getty images
Bakhtiari questioned the imbalance in the revenue split between owners and players in a tweet he posted
Photo: getty images

SOME PLAYERS SPEAK OUT: SI.com's Jenny Vrentas noted several prominent players have "spoken out against the 17-game regular season." Meanwhile, Packers OT David Bakhtiari "questioned the imbalance in the revenue split between owners and players in a tweet he posted Thursday." On the other hand, Jets S Jamal Adams "tweeted his support for an extra game and extra revenue then deleted the post after Sherman replied asking him to call him to talk more deeply about the issue" (SI.com, 2/20). Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette said, "I disagree with the 17 games" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/21). Texans DE J.J. Watt wrote on social media, "Hard no on that proposed CBA" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson notes Watt's tweet "ruffled the feathers of some rank-and-file NFL players who just wanted a chance to get on the phone and ask questions about the league's latest labor proposal." Two players "expressed frustration that a player of Watt's stature spoke out against the deal prior to a Friday conference call" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/21).

PRICE TO PAY: In N.Y., Ryan Dunleavy cites multiple reports as saying that player salaries for the 17th game "would be capped at $250,000," so players earning more than $4.25M per season under current contracts "would be playing an extra game for less money than the first 16" in '21 or '22. Owners also "would concede" up to 48.5% of revenue to players under the proposal. Players who have spoken out are "split on whether that revenue -- an estimated increase" of $2.5-5B over 10 years, "based on the next television contract -- is worth extra body damage in a safety-conscious era in which contact in practice will be further restricted, too" (N.Y. POST, 2/21). In New Orleans, Rod Walker wrote adding a game "would help make dollars and cents," but it really does not "make actual sense." A league that "claims to care so much about player safety would now be adding a 17th game to an already rigorous schedule" (NOLA.com, 2/20). However, in Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey writes, "The players stand to make a bunch more of it if they agree to more games, and who can't appreciate that?" Players at the lower end of the pay scale "would be especially eager to vote yes." Starkey: "Awesome. Do it. Just don't ever talk about your health again" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/21).

SCHEDULING SIGNIFICANCE: One NFL owner last November said that ownership is "adamant that they continue hosting 10 games per season." In Boston, Ben Volin notes right now, every team hosts eight regular-season and two preseason games. In a 17-game schedule, the "likeliest scenario would be half the league hosting nine regular-season games and one preseason game, the other half hosting eight and two, and then flopping the next year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/21).

TALKIN' PLAYOFFS? In DC, Mark Maske cites a source as saying that the owners "'probably' will move forward with their plan to implement the expanded, 14-team playoff field next season even if the players decline to ratify the new CBA." The owners have "included the expanded playoffs in the CBA negotiations with the NFLPA but, in their view, don't need the players' approval to increase the size of the postseason field from 12 to 14 teams." They "already believe they have that right under the existing CBA, although the NFLPA has contended in the past that they do not" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/21). In Philadelphia, Les Bowen reports 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" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/21).

MONEY TALKS: ESPN’s Bomani Jones said of the expanded NFL playoffs, “I do not think that a strong long-term play is diluting the quality of your postseason.” Jones: “The owners don’t care about the quality of the product. The owners care about the money” (“High Noon,” ESPN, 2/20). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said the NFL is “looking at doing something that isn’t terribly ethical, but is great for its bottom line” (“Highly Questionable,” ESPN, 2/20). Meanwhile, ESPN’s Mina Kimes said the players “all say no” to wanting a 17th game in the regular season “until they hear the money” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/20). NFL Network's Tom Pelissero said the NFLPA and the players now have to ask themselves: "Have they gotten enough to accept a pretty big move to a 17-game schedule?" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 2/20).

HIGHS & LOWS: In Pittsburgh, Ray Fittipaldo notes the 17-game schedule "would generate a similar number for owners, as TV networks would get big ratings from late-season games with added playoff implications." In addition, the seventh seed in both conferences will "undoubtedly add more drama in most years." But football purists "aren't thrilled with the expansion" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/21). In Phoenix, Kent Somers wonders, "Do we need more NFL games? No, of course not." But the NFL is "betting" that fans will "consumer whatever it puts in front" of them" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/21). THE RINGER's Rodger Sherman: "Did I ask for the NFL to give me an additional week of the regular season and two extra playoff games? No. Do I need them? Maybe" (THERINGER.com, 2/20). In N.Y., Charles McDonald writes more "isn't always better and the NFL already has a smooth playoff format." The NFL "needs to come to its senses and protect the playoffs" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/21). In Cleveland, Dan Labbe writes this is "really about money and two more games on TV during Wild Card weekend -- and it's probably not coincidental this push is coming with new TV deals on the horizon" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/21).