Amid mounting criticism of an uncompelling exhibition-season product with sparsely attended stadiums and star players being withheld from games to avoid injury, there is increasing conviction within the NFL to shorten the preseason.
The change could take effect by the summer of 2021 and would likely need to be accompanied by an expansion of the league’s playoff field or regular season to offset the revenue lost from cutting one to two preseason games per team. It is being discussed as part of ongoing negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between representatives of the NFL Players Association and team owners, people familiar with the league’s inner workings say.
The options being discussed include the lengthening the regular season from 16 games to 17 or 18, or the expansion of the playoff field from 12 teams to 14. While some owners have not given up on getting players to agree to an 18-game season, the union’s ongoing resistance is increasingly likely to turn the focus to adding playoff games, according to those with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the negotiations.
It is unclear, however, whether owners might push for a 17-game regular season if the NFLPA remains adamantly opposed to 18, and if players would be receptive.