NFLPA president Jalen Reeves-Maybin on possibility of 18 games: "When that time comes, we'll address that"

At the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, one thing became clear in talking to folks around the league. The NFL still wants to expand the regular season to 18 games.

New NFL Players Association Jalen Reeves-Maybin recently was asked about that possibility, by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Reeves-Maybin's response was not, "Hell no."

"I think that people are kind of running with it right now cause it slipped out there," Reeves-Maybin told Birkett. "But I think there’s a lot of other things to gain, and when that time comes, we’ll address that."

The issue first surfaced during Combine week when Browns G.M. Andrew Berry explained that his team had proposed moving the trade deadline back by two weeks. One week would account for the expansion of the season to 17 games, and one week would anticipate the eventual move to 18 games.

The most obvious occasion for further expansion to happen would be when the current labor deal expires, early next decade. The league and the union, however, can reach any agreement they want, at any time. If it's going to happen, the best time to do it could be when the current TV deals expire — if the league exercises its prerogative to pull the plug on them early, after the 2027 season.

More games results in more value and, in turn, more money from the networks to be shared with the players. Likewise, more games results in more exposure to potential injury and, in turn, more injuries to players.

The fact that Reeves-Maybin didn't dismiss the possibility seems significant. It suggests a willingness to agree to it, at the right time and at the right price. That said, prior union management's willingness to agree to a 17-game regular season nearly killed the deal, and it arguably greased the skids for a change in executive director. It therefore could be difficult to sell an extra game to the rank and file.

At the end of the day, the question becomes one of will. If the owners are willing to shut down the game for a season via a lockout to get to 18 games, the players might not be willing to go a full season without getting paid to play 17 games. The only time for the NFL to make their move and threaten a lockout will be upon expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.