The NFL players successfully have beaten back the league’s desire to expand (i.e., enhance) the regular season from 16 to 18 games.
A source with knowledge of the terms of the deal approved by the owners on Thursday tells PFT that, while the new CBA removes the league’s unilateral right to expand from 16 to 18 games (while keeping four preseason games, if so desired), the agreement gives the league the ability to shift to a 16-and-2 format without the input or approval of the post-asterisked NFLPA.
The thinking is that, if the players decline in the future to agree to move to 18 games (which would push the season deeper into the winter months) and cut the preseason from four games to two, the league would simply invoke its right to cut the preseason in half. With the players now getting 48 percent of the gross, the players would lose 48 percent of the revenue lost from a reduced preseason.
And that’s where the owners once again are badly underestimating the players. As we’ve learned over the last 60 hours, the players don’t care about the preseason nearly as much as the owners do. Spread over 1,900 players, the financial impact of the loss of two preseason games is relatively small. Spread across 32 teams, the disappearance of two money-for-nothing games would chew deeply into the profit margin of many teams, especially since expenses in the preseason are minimal.
So when the league says to the players, “Well, our fans really don’t want four preseason games, and since this is all about the fans, we need to reduce the preseason to two games, even if that means keeping the regular season at 16,” the players should respond by saying, “Fine. Do it.”
And then the owners will decide, after further reflection, that they care about their profits more than they care about what the fans want when it comes to the preseason.