It’s fashionable in some circles to criticize anything/everything the NFL Players Association does or doesn’t do. Fair or unfair (mostly unfair), here’s one thing the NFLPA definitely has done incredibly well: The NFLPA has created a clear impression that it is vehemently opposed to expanding the regular season.
There’s a chance perception is reality, that the players won’t agree to expand the regular season, under any circumstances. There’s also a chance that, like everything else, there’s an offer than the NFLPA won’t refuse.
Look at it this way. You have a car that you love. You have no desire to sell that car. Someone gives you a fair offer for the car you love, unsolicited. You pass. The offer increases. You pass.
The offer keeps increasing. You keep passing. At some point, there will be an offer that you won’t refuse. It may take five times the value of the car, maybe 10. But at some point, you’ll say yes.
In this context, question as to the possibility of 18 (or 17) games is whether the NFL eventually will make an offer that is so good that the NFLPA won’t refuse it.
Whatever the offer, it’s got to be substantial. In the last labor deal, the NFL secured the ability to unilaterally slash the preseason, with an unspoken plan to eventually exercise that right and to assume that, once the NFLPA realizes that revenue will be lost via the shrinkage of the preseason, the NFLPA will clamor to replace it (and then some) by adding to the regular season. The NFL hasn’t pressed that button because the NFL believes that the NFLPA will shrug at the lost revenue resulting from a reduced preseason.
It won’t be fear but opportunity that gets the NFLPA to flip from shouting “hell no” to muttering “OK.” And the increase for adding a pair of games will have to be not incremental but exponential, with two extra games creating much more for the average player (or the “core” player, as the NFLPA is currently trying to define the term) than two extra game checks.
Although the NFL downplays the situation as simply adjusting the 20-game structure from 16 and four to 18 and two, the NFLPA realizes that it’s much, much more complex than that. And that it’s going to take much, much more than dividing a player’s salary by 16 and then multiplying it by 18 to get the players, individually or collectively, interested in doing it.
So that’s what it comes down to. Will the NFL offer so much that the players won’t say no, that they can’t say no? Or will the players eventually get an offer they can’t refuse, and refuse it anyway?