Jerry Jones Supports 18-Game Regular Season; Roger Goodell Addresses Prospective Change

A back-burner matter for many years, discussions about an 18-game season did not cross the goal line during the 2020 CBA discussions. A 17-game compromise came to pass. Four years later, however, momentum appears to be building.

Roger Goodell expressed support for another one-game bump to the schedule, noting (via’s Tom Pelissero) Wednesday the prospect of swapping out a preseason game for an extra regular-season contest — a scenario the longtime commissioner addressed last month — would be “a good trade.” The NFL made this trade in 2021, when it dropped the fourth preseason week for the 17th regular-season game.

Jerry Jones backed Goodell on this front, offering support (via the Washington Post’s Mark Maske) for moving to 18 games. Goodell confirmed another schedule expansion is not currently being discussed but addressed it in a “long-range context.” A report last month suggested the NFL offering significant concessions to the NFLPA in exchange for an extra game could take place well before this CBA expires. The current agreement runs through the 2030 season.

John Mara views most owners as being onboard with an 18th game, but the Giants owner can be counted as a skeptic. Citing player wear and tear, Mara (via’s Jeremy Fowler) has concerns about expanding the schedule.

The NFL schedule stood at 16 games for 43 years (1978-2020), and its 14-game era lasted 17 seasons before that. The NFL now appears prepared to cap the 17-game schedule at less than a decade. This could become the central talking point when the next round of CBA discussions commence, but judging by this topic’s momentum, it should be considered a good bet owners attempt to make 18 games a reality before this CBA expires.

With this prospect gaining steam, players have naturally been asked about it. The subject of a second bye week has come up. A two-bye setup did not advance too far during the talks regarding a 17-game season, but if this change comes during the 2020 CBA’s lifespan, many players will be holdovers from the 16-game era. Asking players to add two games to a schedule would be new territory. By the time the season expanded from 14 to 16 games in 1978, just one player (ex-Vikings ironman Jim Marshall) was a holdover from the 12-game era. At the rate this is going, many players will be part of the 16-, 17- and 18-game periods.

The NFL tried the double-bye format just once — in 1993 — but TV networks were displeased with a diluted schedule; that may well have impacted talks about two byes going into a 17-game format. With the 18-game season coming up more frequently midway through this CBA, expect a push for a permanent two-bye setup to be part of the NFLPA’s counter — assuming the union will consider expanding the schedule again so soon.

It will take much more than adding a bye week to convince the union on 18 games, of course, but this fight appears on tap in the not-too-distant future.

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