Full-time officials are coming to the National Football League. NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent told the Associated Press that the league will hire as many as 17 full-time refs by the start of next season.

The additions are allowed under the collective bargaining agreement and would increase the size of officiating crews from seven to eight, the league's vice president of football operations said during a visit to Buffalo on Thursday.

Vincent says hiring full-time officials and discussions to expand replay reviews top the agenda of the NFL's competition committee, which is scheduled to meet in February following the Super Bowl.

Expanding the game-day crews from seven to eight raises the question of where the new official will stand and what his or her responsibilities will be. Per the AP report, two proposals under consideration are:

  • A middle sideline judge that monitors penalties along the interior line.
  • Overseeing hits to the quarterback.

Either one of those positions would be a welcome addition, though certainly a dedicated referee overseeing hits to the quarterback would do more to eliminate things like a rash of uncalled late-hit penalties against 2015 MVP Cam Newton, for example.

It was not specified if the 17 full-time officials will be new hires or simply current officials promoted to full-time status.

One of the motivating factors in hiring officials full-time, though, is the ability to train them, Vincent told the AP. League officials have long been criticized for their job performance. While much of this criticism comes from fans convinced the refs are biased against their favorite team, a good deal of it comes from people just generally dissatisfied with the quality of officiating. That criticism has become especially prevalent in recent years. More and better training for officials, even if only for 17 of them, would certainly help on that front.