On 18 games, will NFL make players an offer they can’t refuse?

Getty Images

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?

84 responses to “On 18 games, will NFL make players an offer they can’t refuse?

  1. The owners are bound and determined to do everything they can to destroy the NFL.

  2. You know, the more I think about it, I think the owners floated this idea they really want 18 games to get something else. By making it known this way and by making it known they want the CBA done before the season starts, they lose a lot of leverage and put themselves in a disadvantageous position to negotiate.

    As I said, the more I think about it, the more I think they want stadium credits, or lower cap room floor or something else and are kind of ‘trapping’ the NFLPA by bringing up these red herrings. These are billionaire businessmen and this current negotiating strategy seems very amateurish.

  3. Good point Mike. I agree that there is an “offer” out there (I have no idea how much) where the NFLPA will stop thinking about the safety and long term health of its members and instead focus on the Benjamins.

  4. 17 games is intriguing. Would that eliminate most of the need for obscure tiebreakers?

  5. Mike, maybe we can look at this a different way. Right now we have 20 games a season, however, the pre-season competition continues to degrade every year. So the NFL is concerned that the pre-season is not a good product. Well instead of lengthening the season, why not make the pre-season a better product. Nothing in the CBA states players can only pay a specific number of snaps. The coaches decide that the risk is not worth the reward. Make the reward better by simply changing the season winning tie-breaking system to include the pre-season record as the initial tie-breaker. Just a thought from a fan perspective. By the way thank you for PFT, I could not make it through the off-season without you!!

  6. Who cares what the players think? If they don’t like It, find a job that pays somewhat decent considering your qualifications. Of course this could open up the door to politics on the left side.

  7. “17 games is intriguing. Would that eliminate most of the need for obscure tiebreakers?”

    No 17 games is just as greedy and horrible an idea as 18 is. And it would do absolutely nothing to eliminate tie breakers. Teams could just as easily end up with the same records as another no matter the number of games.

  8. Saw that a plan was being floated was that no player would to play more than 16 games in the regular season
    Now that is interesting! You could argue that this would actually improve safety, giving a player that is banged up a chance to sit out a game he might have otherwise had to play.
    Would also mean that a backup quarterback would have to start at least 2 games.
    I would expect they would also have to allow for roster expansion.
    This could be made to work!

  9. The 16 game NFL season is perfect. 18 games is too many for the human body. They can add however many bye weeks as they want, if they want more TV revenue, but keep 16 as the limit on games played.

  10. Leave it at 16!!! Stop with the greed, it’s going to get players hurt and have backups playing for a championship. MLB su is because it’s 162 games, NBA is also too long at 82 games.

  11. 17 games. Every team plays a game in London. No overseas games week 1 or week 18. Trade it for increased active rosters, increased practice squad, retiree health benefits, and make marijuana subject to state/federal law with nothing more than that.

  12. Simple solution if the NFL wants to play hardball.

    No more testing for pot in exchange for an 18 game schedule.

    If the players refuse, anyone testing positive serves their suspension no ifs and or buts.

    Goodell has been playing good cop the last year to show the players what could be.

    Now to refuse the offer and have things go back to draconian suspensions would have the players howling to the NFLPA.

  13. I think at this time of year people forget how dreadful it is when you are a team like the Dolphins or a team ravaged by injuries through 8 games and then have to suffer through 10 more games when all fans want by then is the draft. BTW this shortening the preseason 18 games thing has been a topic since Reagan and then September comes and it goes away again. Can’t see much changing until Kyler Murray’s kids start playing in the league.

  14. Players should say they’d be fine with 18 games if salaries became fully guaranteed. All talk of 18 games would immediately stop

  15. Sometimes you just need to do one thing very well to be successful and of quality. In-n-Out just makes a very simple menu very well. The place is always packed. People enjoy it and go back. McDonald’s has a complicated menu of suspect quality. They can be busy but not out of more than convenient locations. Sometimes you just need to run the same plays to perfection. The NFL is far from perfection. Get better, not more. Both the league and McDonald’s make a lot of money. Both are willing to sacrifice quality for cash. Sometimes more is just more.

  16. If the NFL wants 18 games, they should start with: 1) increase player share to 60% of total revenue, 2) eliminate any stadium credits, 3) remove Goodell as final arbiter and resolve all discipline through a truly independent 3rd party, 4) drop the funding rule for contract guarantees, and 5) eliminate franchise and transition tags.

  17. De Smith will take his orders always does. The players already have the worst pay and benefits in major sports. This will make it worse.

    How De Smith has a job is beyond explanation?

  18. we’ve hear a lot of talk about 18 games… but not much about the players getting additional money for those 2 extra games. This proposal is D.O.A. without that consideration cemented into the ground first.

  19. I think the idea that they can have an 18 game schedual, but players can only play 16. The thing is you would have to expand the rosters so you would have backups for the player(s) sitting out on any given weekend. Teams should NOT be required to say who the player(s) they are sitting on any given weekend and not playing while on IR does not count as “rest games”. All players MUST use their “rest games” by week 13 so you don’t have teams that are already a lock for the playoffs use their final games as rest games for the playoffs. No team should have to “tip there hands” on who will take their “rest weeks” because of roster size. That is just being cheap. I get it that a 16 game schedule is a grind … but making season ticket holders pay full price for worthless pre season games is just a flat out rip off. Just some things to think about. The health of the players is the #1 concern in this proposal.

  20. These guys apply themselves 16 times in 17 weeks for three hours, maybe six hour per week. Actually cut that in half because the offense and defense aren’t out there the entirety of the game. So for 1.5 hours they do this and get paid well. League minimum is six figures. Even the practice squad, six figures for not even being on the active roster. Basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer…global sports. They play more games, generate a lot of revenue. The players have more options for advertising dollars. The NFL plays 16 games and the bulk of it’s money comes from inside the country. The players want a larger slice of the pie but refuse to work two more weeks, heck, they don’t even have to play one or two of the games but will still get paid. Might want to work with the owners and expand your income pool instead of being anti-change. So a guy gets hurt week one and misses the season, no gripes. Guy gets hurt week 17 and it’s pure chaos? Makes no sense.

  21. the trade off …. all the weed ya want, increase roster and game day size by five or six players with additional cap space added on … all the starters can only play a max of seventeen with two preseason games lopped off, maybe start the season a week early and a week later at the end, coaches get one more challenge a game and probably add an additional bye week if the can work it all out … think these trade offs are fair as you have more game day players to keep everyone fresh

  22. I been hearing this since 2009 can we end this 18 game crap??? It’s so annoying

  23. If the NFL owners want more greed from the amount of money a 18 game season would put back in their pockets, then lets see how willing they would still be to it, if the players say they would do only it if all contracts are then fully guaranteed

  24. What about the fans? Not one mention of them here. Most of us don’t want more games. It’s already hard enough to get through the season healthy. Greed is a sickness. It will eventually kill all in it’s path, including the NFL. The owners makes billions annually. They are obviously very sick with greed if 18 games is really that important to them. It’s important to NO ONE else.

  25. Preseason is terrible, does anyone want to see more than 3 preseason games? I guess roster bubble players do, but that’s about it. If they convert 2 games to regular season games it would mean more revenue from season ticket holders, alone. Then think about everything from commercials to concessions. There is A LOT of monty on the table, so much it requires capitalization.

    Here are some things to entice players: faster vesting in NFL pensions, no testing for marijuana, expanded rosters, expanded long term healthcare, increased salary cap, more non-contact mandates for practices, an additional bye week.

    I personally don’t care for college football so when they start playing and I’m still waiting for the NFL season, it feels like a long time…

    The longer season could degrade the game a bit. Last year the final game of the season was meaningless to most. Top contenders like the Saints had numerous injuries to starters who never were really 100% for the playoffs. Would an expanded roster make up the difference? I don’t know the answer, but something has to give because now that everyone see the revenue possibilities it’s only a matter of time before it happens.

  26. The issue is NOT and NEVER HAS BEEN that the “Preseason is not a good product. ”
    It was never intended to be and no true knowledgeable fan expects it to be.
    It’s part of preparing and selecting the team.
    The NFL just happens to make $$ off of it by forcing fans to pay for it as part of their season tickets.

    Reduce the preseason by two games and you will have two vastly inferior week 1 and 2 games as teams struggle to get things into place.
    It’s really not that complicated.

  27. I don’t see the big deal or 18 game season, with 2 preseason games and 18 regular season games and give each team 2 bye weeks.

  28. In the long run adding games to the regular season will just make watching the nfl more boring. I don’t mean to say that it is boring, it is not, but adding games will just make each game less important and less likely that i will watch a game that doesn’t involve my favorite team so i think it is stupid but whatever. too many pauses in the action, that is why soccer and basketball are growing right now and everyone else is shrinking. too many pauses in the action whether it is comercials, adjusting batting gloves, challenges, or overhyped pregame b.s. show us the game and put the breaks on selling us crap all the time. or at least sell us crap while there is a game going on because it is just getting harder and harder to watch. adding games won’t help in the long run. i won’t watch them.

  29. Adding games to the season would also cause too many changes to the record books

  30. We know all the PFT haters will downvote this, but literally Tom Brady would never sit out a game EVER, so when he starts moving to 18 (I mean 21) games a year the TB12 method book will become part of the 18 game package, free delivery to every player.

    I cant even imagine D or O lineman fearing they have to play 18 weeks like that to earn a contract or support their families.

  31. Didnt Roger Goodell also multiple times in deflection of deflategate — Yes Im saying it happened — talk about how he wanted to get rid of 4 pre-season games… In 2016?

  32. An offer the players can’t refuse would probably go along the lines of:

    How about an additional 10% of the profits going to the players for adding games, also no more Rog as the judge, jury and executioner over suspensions, marijuana and PED testing abolished, higher hard cap to ensure more spending, expanded rosters and all players active on game days, and no more Thursday night games.

    They might even be able to squeeze a little more out of them depending on how bad the owners really want this.

  33. This could work just do the following:
    Increase the roster from 53 to 65… add another bye week…. two thursdays games back to back….. practice squad to 15 ….. and guarantee contracts to 80%.
    What’s not to like???? Hahahahahahahahaha

  34. 18 games isn’t happening. Noise from the owners so they can act like they’re making a concession by dropping an idea that had no chance of being implemented. It’s a negotiating ploy, nothing more IMHO.

  35. Let’s say you have a car you really love. Then as part of your annual salary review your company offers you a new car but it has big company logos on the side. They say you will only get your annual raise if you take the car. You say the car I have is fine, and they say ok… then you will get a much smaller raise.

  36. In the name of safety…Really? C’mon dude its football not a knitting class.

  37. Eliminate Thursday night games, Guarantee Contracts, Eliminate the Franchise Tag, Stop testing for weed, Add two playoff teams, Hire the Ref’s full time again, centralize replay, eliminate two pre season games, teach players how to tackle and block, eliminate about 30 or so rules from the rulebook, set clear and defined rules for misconduct, fire Roger, lower ticket prices. Then you can have your 18 games.

    I don’t ask for much…

  38. 18 games is a horrible idea. It moves the start of the season to Labor Day weekend, which is now the college football kickoff weekend. That will go away because the NFL will take Sunday day/night and Monday night. It moves the Super Bowl to mid-February – or later, because the NFL ALSO wants another week of playoff games.

    Requiring players to sit out 2 games is probably worse. No team will have their starters sit out division games, and they’re less likely to have them sit out conference games as opposed to non-conference games. So if you’re a fan of an NFC team, forget about seeing Mahomes. KC plays in your city once every 8 years. He’ll be sitting. If you don’t have season tickets and go to one or two games a year, maybe you’ll see that star player you love, or maybe you won’t.

    Some say “this is no different than when players get injured.” No – it’s nothing like that. Injuries have always been part of the game, but uninjured starters never sit unless the team has clinched everything in the last couple of weeks of the season. This is bogus.

  39. Was there this much push back in 1977. Thats when the NFL only played 14 games and had 6 preseason games. Two more weeks of competitive football, i’m all for it.

  40. 18 games diminishes the importance of the regular season and increases the chance of a team getting hot / fortunate with injuries at the end to win it all.

  41. With 18/2 the NFLPA could help their core veterans by expanding the rosters from 53 to 60 or more. This might help preserve jobs for vets who might otherwise be cut in favor of draftees and UDFAs, especially with only 2 pre-season games to evaluate rosters.

  42. 2 Pre-season games.
    18 game season.
    Limit of 16 games per player.

    A less predictable season.

  43. Goodell’s NFL is becoming a lot like Disney’s Star Wars.

    A legacy product that’s now changed past the point of still being enjoyable to watch.

  44. Just to float a couple of ideas…
    How about make all contracts 100% guaranteed?
    Get rid of the franchise tag both exclusive and non exclusive.
    Eliminate all testing for Marijuana in the cities where it is legal.
    Expand the rosters to 60 players and allow all of them to dress in game day (no more 53 players on a team but only 50 playing).
    And finally, expand the ability to appeal fines. Players aren’t going to be happy if the low paid players are still losing significant chunks of pay to fines for actually doing their jobs.

    All that and the players should probably accept the deal begrudgingly.

  45. How would 17 games work? Half the teams have 8 home games and 9 road games and half the teams have 9 home games and 8 road games and then alternate each year? Never was good at math but I’m having trouble visualizing how the schedule would work

  46. I think players would agree to the 18 game season for two key factors. Increase a player salary that would be closer to the NBA salaries & approve medical marijuana though team doctors only when players are dealing with injuries only during the season for pain management only. The NBA does not suspend a player for weed. However, I would still take game checks or suspend players who test positive for PEDS. Everyone wins!!

  47. bigpete07 says:
    July 17, 2019 at 8:55 am
    2 Pre-season games.
    18 game season.
    Limit of 16 games per player.

    A less predictable season.


    I watch the sport to see the best players in the world going head to head, so this doesn’t make any sense to me. By the way… if they ever put this idea in place which coach currently manages roster depth the best? That’s right, Belichick. If you want the Patriots to keep winning, go ahead and implement this schedule.

  48. July 17, 2019 at 8:29 am
    With 18/2 the NFLPA could help their core veterans by expanding the rosters from 53 to 60 or more. This might help preserve jobs for vets who might otherwise be cut in favor of draftees and UDFAs, especially with only 2 pre-season games to evaluate rosters.


    Increasing the roster size will decrease the size of the slice of pie for super star players who already are complaining they don’t get paid like NBA players do. If anything I think they will decrease the roster size by eliminating the kick off at some point.

  49. toddm6d says: “Goodell’s NFL is becoming a lot like Disney’s Star Wars. A legacy product that’s now changed past the point of still being enjoyable to watch.”

    Rose-coloured glasses.

    If the original Star Wars was released today, it would bomb. Cheesy dialogue, incredibly lame swordplay, a “mary-sue” Luke skywalker that learns the to use the Force in a day, etc.

    Same with you football analogy. Some of us remember the football of the 70’s and 80’s – it’s not better than what we have now. Football is football.

  50. For all those whining about adding two games will cause more injuries, Pro Football Focus studied 10 years of data. The rate of injuries was consistent every week – meaning a player was likely to be injured in Week 18 as he was in Week 2.

    And extending the season would allow players injured early in the season to heal a bit longer and come back for the playoffs.

    Other than QB, EVERY player is replaceable. (Even Foles replaced Wentz.) We love football because it embodies “Next Man Up” perfectly.

  51. Maybe the NFL should do a little market research to see what the fans will support as it seems that Goodell and his merry little band of greedy owners are about to kill their “golden goose” out of ignorance of how the “other half” lives. Currently, even lifelong, die hard fans are weary when the playoffs roll around and are ready to move on to basketball (or their other favorite sport) unless their team is still a strong contender. The price of season tickets is so out of reach for the average fan(s) that they have to carefully choose from the schedule, one or maybe two games to treat themselves to for the ” live football experience”. The NFL currently is operating on the “theory of more”…more games, more expansion to other countries, more rules, more control over the outcome of the game…without consideration for producing a better product or making professional football more fan friendly and accessible to the average Joe (and his family).
    Instead of trying to push MORE games, perhaps the NFL needs to focus more on fixing the litany of issues is has already with sixteen games. Professional football just isn’t that much fun anymore and adding more is only going to stretch out the swan song.

  52. Technically, the “Offer he can’t refuse” would be: Luca Brasi holdsa gun to De Smith’s head and Roger Goodell assures him that either his brains or his signature would be on the 18 game season contract.

  53. If we must change it, my vote would be to take it from 17 weeks to 21. Add 2 games and 2 byes. Players get more rest, and football fans get an extra month.

  54. clintonhorus says:
    July 16, 2019 at 6:18 pm
    Offer the players the end of pot as a banned substance. DEAL DONE!
    Seeing as how more than half the players don’t even smoke pot and those that do know enough now on how to beat the test I fail to see how this in anyway would be a deal they would take. Besides plenty of owners themselves smoke pot and don’t like seeing their own players suspended for something that’s already legal or decriminalized in most states. This isn’t in any way a concession.

    It would have to be something significant and cash based….The end of Franchise tags along with a higher percentage of the revenue share than they receive now.

  55. You can bank on it. All the owners, players and Goodell care about is money. Playing 18 games equals more money, so it’s a done deal that it will happen.

  56. If you throw in an additional bye week and a rule that no player can play more than 16 games, I’m not as strongly against it. But I also am not a huge fan of expanding the regular season to begin with.

  57. The worst thing the NFL owners could do for the game would be to make the regular season 18 games. Therefore of course they will do it because the owners really do not care about the game or the players.

  58. Only offer they need to make for 18 games is to:
    – add 5 players to the roster
    – add a second bye week
    – drop 2 pre-season games
    – bump in the cap equal to what two more games (at current games figures, NOT a giant add-on) and 5 players would cost

    Union and players should want 5 more slots, a second bye will help all teams get through the season, 2 more real games vs a lame scrimmage benefits everyone.

  59. Owners want more football, fans want quality football. I, for one, always thought the bye week in the wild card round of the playoffs was far to beneficial. I can’t name another major sport that allows a free pass in the free round of a tournament. It’s only 4 more individual games, but I’d love to see a true 16 team tournament for the playoffs.

  60. I didn’t think the players were paid for preseason games, I thought the paid games started at week one. I thought that’s why the players wanted to shorten preseason

  61. Expand active rosters to 61, expand Gameday rosters to 53.
    Increment the player share of revenue proportionally.
    Consider a second bye week. (18-week schedule with TWO byes)

    There aren’t any new arguments to be made vs. last expansion to 16 games (from 14). Despite it being sold as some sort of REvolutionary change, it’s not. It’s simply an EVolutionary one.

    One thing that can be implemented more proportionally (or fairly) is strength-of-schedule games. While the current setup only allows for 2, increasing it to 4 will pay dividends in the long run.

  62. I wonder how this will work for the fans if players are only mandated to play 16 games. How far in advance will it be reported what players are sitting in what games.

  63. The players should know they’re eminently capable of handling an 18-game season. The safety argument against it is a hoax and made by people who seem oblivious to the enormough increase in durability and resultant safety ability of both players and equipment.

  64. 16 games is fine…..expand the playoffs. I hate it that two teams get a bye. All playoff teams should play the same number of games.

  65. xxxxx…..16 games is fine…..expand the playoffs. I hate it that two teams get a bye. All playoff teams should play the same number of games.

  66. 17 (one neutral site) + 2 preseason = huge benefit to NFL paying fans, especially if the home preseason game is played at another nearby college stadium or is severed from the season ticket plan.

  67. The NFL would have to give up some serious concessions if they want that to happen.

  68. Players do not want an 18 game schedule. Mostly because of injury risks. The more games played the higher the risk of injury. Unless they limited each player to 16 games or less, there is no way the NFLPA will accept any terms.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.