Friends, Romans, Countrymen....I would be interested in whether or not you think this might be a good idea....my thoughts:
- The game is at the cusp (if not over the cusp) of being over-exposed as it is.
- I think they would need to expand the active roster by at least 5 players to maintain quality.
- It is interesting how the proposal would push the likely career length below 3 years...when benefits kick in.
The Billion-Dollar Question Hanging Over NFL Labor Talks
NFL owners say an 18-game regular season would drastically increase revenues, but players are pushing back
By Andrew Beaton July 11, 2019 11:43 am EThttps://www.wsj.com/arti...lts&page=1&pos=2
At the most recent collective bargaining session between the NFL and its players union, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the league decision-makers proffered one of the most tantalizing ideas in professional football: What about an 18-game regular season?
The idea has been on the owners’ wish list for years because of an upside that’s both simple and lucrative. Two more games might drastically increase revenue. The country’s richest sports league could become even richer. The players would share in that windfall.
But the players resisted their pitch. And their misgivings about playing two more games show how, as players and owners haggle over a new collective bargaining agreement, their interests diverge even when there is more money—potentially billions of dollars annually—on the table for both sides to share.
For the same reasons that an 18-game season would make both sides more money, the players say it would also undercut several points they’re focused on addressing in this round of bargaining. Those include improving conditions for middle-class players, who face short career spans, non-guaranteed contracts and post-career health concerns—concerns that might be undercut by playing more football.
“They’re looking at it like, ‘Hey get back into the mine and start mining coal,’” said Eric Winston, president of the NFL Players Association.
The current collective bargaining agreement doesn’t expire until after the 2020 season, but the two sides have engaged in early talks in hopes of getting a new deal done, perhaps even before this season. The sooner a new agreement is struck, the better position the league is in to begin talks with broadcasters about the sale of their next round of TV rights, the most valuable property in television.
This isn’t the first time 18 games has been discussed. But the conversations around an expanded schedule have approached a new level of creativity, three people familiar with the discussions said, with the possibilities including expanded rosters and mandating players only participate in a certain number of games.One idea owners have proposed: limiting players to 16 games,
to assuage health and safety concerns. That would mean even if the Kansas City Chiefs played 18 games, quarterback Patrick Mahomes would play in just 16 of them.
Ownership pushed for an 18-game schedule back in 2011, too—when negotiations grew so tense that the owners locked out the players for months, threatening the start of the season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke openly about it then, saying that cutting down the pre-season “improves the quality of what we’re doing as a league.”
It’s not hard to figure out why expanding the schedule holds so much allure. The four-game preseason schedule becomes more of a caricature every year, with star players sitting out and fans chafing at spending big bucks to see meaningless games. Swapping two of those for two more regular-season weeks could be a boon.
An NFLPA analysis concluded that two additional games could add as much as $2.5 billion in annual revenue.
This, they believe, would add approximately $15 million to the salary cap for each team in the first year. Across the league’s 32 teams, that has the potential to put nearly half a billion dollars in the hands of players annually.
But the players see downsides. There are already roughly 4,000 injuries per year. Those tend to spike later in the season, when players are more fatigued and their bodies have absorbed months of bruising play. And for the same reason that revenue would rise with two more regular-season games, it could increase the number of injuries too—especially, players fear, in the proposed 17th and 18th games.
One proposal for an 18-game season would force star players like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to sit out two regular season games. Photo: jay biggerstaff/Reuters
That type of increase could have consequences, according to the union’s analysis. The additional two regular-season games every year would reduce the average career span from 3.3 years to 2.8 years, they estimate. That is crucial because players currently become eligible for post-career benefits such as pensions and health insurance after three years.
The NFL says, according to its calculations, the average career length for a player who has played in at least three games is 4.2 years. The league added that there were only 2,800 injuries last year that caused players to miss time. Goodell, on CNBC Thursday, when asked about an 18-game schedule noted the steps the league has made to make the game safer.
And the players view the proposal in which they would have to sit games as unrealistic because key players would be unwilling to ride the bench when the stakes are so high, one of the people familiar with the negotiations said. They also feel it could exacerbate issues that have already been raised about tanking and competitiveness.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a world in which the players will sign off on an 18-game schedule down the road, with another bargaining session scheduled for next week. And with so much money at stake in the decision, it’s also the players’ greatest leverage in the negotiations to bargain for better benefits and a greater share of revenue. The players currently see 47% of what the league makes.
The impasse reflects the players’ priorities in any new deal: practical changes that improve the quality of life for what they refer to as their “core” player. That refers to the players who make up the majority of rosters and play on cheap contracts. In other words, the non-Tom Bradys of the league.
Under this latest collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap has soared, with the cap tied to the league’s revenue growth. So when owners cash in on mega-broadcasting deals, the players do, too. The cap for this upcoming season will be $188.2 million--a 56.8% increase over the $120 million in 2011. It has gone up by at least $10 million in each of the last six seasons. That means the players have become richer than ever.
Except most players haven’t exactly gotten a piece of that fortune. While the bigger budgets have afforded teams more money to shell out for the game’s biggest stars, nearly 60% of players sign contracts for the minimum.
The union has instead been advocating for changes that would reach its broader membership. This includes increased benefits, player-performance bonuses, changes to the minimum salary structure and the ability for players to reach free agency more quickly. Essentially, they are looking to protect the same things that an 18-game calendar would erode.
“No players are banging down my door asking me to think about this,” Winston said.
Write to Andrew Beaton at email@example.com
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