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NFL owners approve terms of proposed CBA that would include a 17-game regular season and expanded playoffs

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during a press conference prior to Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Miami Downtown on Jan. 29 in Miami. Credit: Getty Images/Cliff Hawkins

NFL owners voted Thursday to approve the terms of a proposed collective bargaining agreement that would extend the current deal through the 2029 season, leaving it up to the NFL Players Association to decide whether to approve the deal.

The NFLPA plans a conference call of player representatives on Friday to discuss CBA negotiations, after which a vote of the full NFLPA membership could take place, a source said.

The proposed deal would include the eventual transition to a 17-game regular season, although the earliest that would occur is in 2021, leaving the upcoming season at 16 games, according to a source. There also would be an additional playoff team added in each conference, with only one team per conference earning a first-round bye. Currently, there are six teams per conference that make the playoffs, with the two teams earning a bye. There would be six wild-card games on the opening weekend of the playoffs instead of four. In the event of a 17-game regular season, the preseason would be reduced to three games from the current four-game format. 

If no new deal is reached, it still is possible that the league would expand the playoffs next season, although one source said it was his understanding that expanded playoffs are connected to a new CBA.

The owners’ vote was not unanimous, according to another source, although it was unknown how many owners voted against the proposed CBA. Under league guidelines, at least 24 of the 32 owners must approve a proposed measure.

“Following more than 10 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 released after Thursday’s meeting, which lasted just over two hours.

“The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement,” the statement said. “The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement.”

The league appeared to give a deadline of sorts for the union to either accept a new deal or continue under the current CBA, which is set to expire after the 2020 season.

“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 said. “Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time.”

If the NFLPA player reps sign off on the terms of a new CBA, a vote of the full membership would follow. Two-thirds of the player reps would have to approve the deal, and a simple majority of the players would be required for its passage.

The NFLPA had no comment on the owners’ votes, although NFLPA president Eric Winston wrote on Twitter earlier Thursday: “There has been a flood of information on the potential of a new CBA. To our players: your player leadership has been working tirelessly. This is a business deal and no deal is finalized until the players vote.”

The current 10-year CBA was approved before the 2011 season and was a continuation of similar deals that were initially forged by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw in 1993.

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