The NFL is strongly considering making changes to the off-season portion of its annual calendar, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Reportedly, the league is looking into the possibility of pushing back the scouting combine (which is happening right now in Indianapolis) to early March, free agency to April and the draft to May.
Though the changes could be to simply create more of a cushion for teams after the Super Bowl — and to extend fan interest into the spring, which is typically a dead period — some are speculating that the real reason for the potential changes is to open up the possibility of extending the regular season.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league owners have long been rumored to have interest in extending the season from 16 to 18 games. Though plans to officially add two more games were scuttled during the last collective bargaining agreement with the players union, negotiated just prior to the 2011 season, the idea is expected to be revisited in the next few years.
More regular season games means, of course, more fan interest and more money for the owners. The players are expected to resist the idea, as it creates a significantly greater risk of injury. The league will likely counter by removing two of the four pre-season games on the current schedule. Then, the players will argue that most don’t play much in those games, as they’re used to evaluate players on the roster bubble. Then, the whole thing will get messy.
Don’t expect any changes to be finalized any time soon. The NFL appears to be setting the stage for what could be prolonged negotiations. Still, it appears inevitable that we’ll have two more regular season football games to watch before the end of the decade.