BOSTON -- The NFL Draft will very likely move to May, according to league sources, but to this point there has been no vote. NFL clubs were told via conference call late last week that the date could be changing, and possibly the start of the league year as well, but the teams were not provided any details and sources said there is nothing imminent in terms of changing the combine or the start of free agency.
The NFL is concerned with a conflict with Radio City Music Hall next year, with the building booked for annual Easter shows and Easter falling on the draft weekend next season. So, in the short term, that explains the imminent change. The NFL has the authority to hold the draft when it wants, without having to negotiate it with the NFLPA.
However, any change to the start of free agency would require NFLPA approval and the union remains deeply opposed to moving it back. At this point, there have been no deals struck to change the start of the league year, contrary to a ProFootballTalk.com report. The NFL would like to reshape the calendar and spread out some of these events, but it's not so simple.
As one team executive put it, moving everything back would throw off the college schedules, alter the dates for pro days and complicate an already exhaustive pre-draft evaluation process.
"The colleges are pissed at us enough already," he said. "I'm reading all of this stuff about moving the combine and moving the league year, and I don't see how it will all work. But the league hasn't told us any specifics yet."
Team officials are largely in transit to Boston on Monday for the annual league meeting, which is focused primarily on business affairs and the awarding of Super Bowl L.
While the matter is not expected to be resolved during this meeting in Boston, NFL teams will be briefed on changes proposed as league officials and the NFLPA have continued to go back and forth on making changes.
The NFL has the authority to move the draft and combine as it sees fit, but not the start of free agency, which is bargained with the union. The league originally proposed starting the league year in April, rather than March, but the union balked. The NFLPA is comfortable, however, with a proposal that would keep the 2014 league year as is, but would hold the draft starting May 15 in 2014.
Then, in 2015 the league year would begin around March 1 or 2 (it began March 12 this year), and in 2016 it would begin around March 4. The combine, traditionally held in February, would move to around March 12, considerably later than the norm, with the format also changing with more emphasis placed on a series of regional combines leading up to the event in Indianapolis. Fewer players would get invites to the national combine, with an American Idol style run up to it, as one source put it/ with players earning invites to Indy.
To this point everything is in the "discussion phase," but should key owners and members of the competition committee not object, then the changes could become official in short order, again, with the players union comfortable with this arrangement.