It's no secret at least some of the NFL owners areTheir desire to stretch the schedule has always been known and it stems from one very obvious desire (more money), but finally, one of the specific ideas they have for an 18-game schedule is no longer a secret.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal's Andrew Beaton published an in-depth story on the issue, which should play a role as CBA talks intensify later this month. In his story, Beaton provided one specific proposal that the NFL owners have already pitched the players.
According to Beaton, the NFL owners proposed having an 18-game schedule with a 16-game limit for all players, meaning that backup quarterbacks would be forced to play in at least two games and superstar quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady would be forced to sit at least two games per season. It goes beyond quarterbacks, of course. Every player would sit at least two games. That means coaches would be tasked with playing more of their backups more than usual.
On the one hand, teams with better overall depth would be rewarded. On the other hand, does anyone want to watch Blake Bortles or Nathan Peterman or Blaine Gabbert play more football than they have to? Does anyone want to watch those backup quarterbacks play behind backup offensive linemen? Does anyone want to watch those backup quarterbacks play behind backup offensive linemen while throwing to backup receivers? You get the point. It could lead to some unattractive football.
Obviously, just because it has been proposed doesn't mean the players will agree to it. If it does get approved, it might not come with the 16-game player limit. In theory, preventing players from playing in all 18 games would relieve the player-safety concerns many players undoubtedly hold. But according to Beaton, the players find the proposal "unrealistic because key players would be unwilling to ride the bench when the stakes are so high."
An 18-game season isn't the only issue up for debate, but it should play a role in negotiations. It's not difficult to understand both sides of the debate. The NFL owners want more money. Though the players would also get more money with an expanded season and an increase in revenue, they can't ignore the injury aspect. This likely won't be the last time we hear about an 18-game schedule as talks continue later this month. There are other ways the NFL could stretch the season to 18 games.
"They're looking at it like, 'Hey get back into the mine and start mining coal,'" said NFLPA president Eric Winston, per The Wall Street Journal.
As has been previously reported by ESPN, as the two sides target a new agreement before the upcoming season kicks off, even though the current CBA doesn't expire until after the 2020 season. Even if a new deal doesn't materialize this summer, the two sides are reportedly optimistic they aren't heading toward a lockout after the 2020 season.