In many respects, the 17-game season is like Thursday Night Football. Plenty of individual players will object to it, but the NFL Players Association inevitably will agree to it. Because the money will be too good.
ESPN.com posted on Saturday afternoon a collection of quotes from individual players regarding the 17-game season, with input ranging from “not interested” to “interested if we get more money and more time off.” The article opens with quotes from Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who is opposed to 17 games — and who believes that plenty of other players are, too.
“When I talk to the guys, I don’t think many people want to do it,” Campbell said. “Really, you talk to guys and I don’t think anybody wants to do it. It’s going to be very, very tough. I know the ownership’s really hard on it. We’re definitely talking, trying to figure out what we need to do, how we can make this thing work.”
The thinking is that, eventually, they’ll find a way to make it work. The ongoing labor negotiations are unfolding under the league’s proposal for a 17-game season. As one source with knowledge of the dynamics told PFT earlier this month, if the 16-game formula were still in play, a new deal already would be done.
So the question, at this point, doesn’t seem to be whether a 17-game season is coming, but what the owners will offer for it, in terms of more money and more down time. And it can’t simply be a 6.25-percent pay hike to reflect the increase in games from 16 to 17. There needs to be a significant bump in pay, and it needs to be something more than a general increase to the salary cap, since that could end up disproportionately benefiting star players. The minimum salaries must increase, and the minimum spending requirements must go up, forcing owners to spend closer and closer to the cap.
Both sides regard the start of the new league year in March as a deadline for getting a deal done. Once the economics are resolved based on 17 games, the rest of the deal should quickly come together.