Labor talks between the NFL and the league's players union are picking up steam this week as the two sides seek to reach a new deal well before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement at the end of the 2020 season.
The league's owners met in New York on Thursday, voting to approve a new agreement.
"Following more than ten months of intensive and thorough negotiations, the NFL Players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players – past, present, and future – both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL's second century is even better and more exciting for the fans," the league said in a statement. "The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement."
Player leadership is set to discuss the the proposal during a Friday conference call.
According to multiple reports, among the main changes included in the proposed agreement are an expanded regular season, more playoff teams and a larger share of the revenue for the players.
The biggest push from ownership this offseason has been a shift to a 17-game regular season, with the preseason being shortened from four to three games. In recent months, the players have been resistant to this change, including 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, one of the leading voices in the NFLPA.
"I don’t think it’s something that players are interested in, honestly, and if that’s the point they’re negotiating on, I think these negotiations are going to go on a lot longer than anticipated," Sherman said the week before the Super Bowl. "It's odd to me, and it’s always odd, when you hear player safety is their biggest concern ... but it seems like player safety has a price tag.
“Player safety, up to the point of, ‘Hey, 17 games makes us this much money, so we really don’t care how safe they are, if you’re gonna pay us this much money to play another game.’ And so that’s the part that’s really concerning for us as a union and us as players because they think that players have a price tag on their health and I don’t think we’re in the same ballpark in that regard.”
Conceding and accepting a 17-game regular season would open the players to concessions elsewhere. That includes reduced testing and punishment for the usage of marijuana, as well as increased financial benefits.
The current proposal reportedly will increase the players' revenue share from 47 to 48.5 percent. With a 17-game schedule, that could result in about $5 billion more for the player pool over the duration of a 10-year labor agreement.
Another point being discussed is increasing the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14. That would allow for only one team, with the best record in each conference, to earn a bye, while adding two extra wild-card games.
The expanded playoffs could go into effect immediately, for the 2020 season, if a new CBA is ratified in the coming months.
The owners said there will be no changes to the 2020 season if this proposal is not approved by the players.
"Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms," the statement read. "Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time."