NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at the 2021 NFL draft. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

How can the NFL conceivably keep making even more money from media rights with most of its broadcast deals locked up through 2033-34? Well, one way is through short-term deals for particular playoff games not included in those overall deals, as with the one headed from Peacock to Amazon’s Prime Video this coming year. Another is if they’re able to create more game inventory, either with playoff expansion or with regular-season expansion. And Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Sunday that the latter seems to be on its way (although perhaps not until the 2030 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement signed in 2020):

Here’s more from that piece by Florio, headlined “There’s a lingering sense the NFL still wants to get to 18 regular-season games”:

The first hint of it came when Browns G.M. Andrew Berry explained on PFT Live that Cleveland and other teams are proposing a delay of the trade deadline by 14 days, from the Tuesday after Week 8 to the Tuesday after Week 10. Berry said that one week was aimed at accounting for the extra week created by the 17th regular-season game — and that the second week was in anticipation of further expansion of the regular season, to 18 games.

That happened on Tuesday. In talking to folks after that, I mentioned Berry’s plan, with the anticipation of another game. The reaction was, basically, “Yeah. That’s coming.”

It likely won’t come until the next labor deal. And the league will likely have the same determination then that it had four years ago, when it was clear that the league wanted an extra game badly enough to lock out the players, like the NFL did in 2011.

As noted there, the NFL Players Association will likely have strong opposition to extending the schedule. But that hasn’t been enough to stop the NFL thus far. And Florio notes that this could potentially involve measures such as regulating that no player can play more than 17 of the 18 regular-season games (with possible exceptions for quarterbacks, kickers, punters, and long snappers). But there are definitely health and safety concerns with extending the NFL season even further, and the players will likely register some strong opposition.

There are questions of diminishing returns for the NFL. If the regular season keeps getting longer and the playoffs keep expanding, there is less importance on each individual game, to say nothing of the increased injury risk and the depleted rosters that may result. But those have been raised at every point so far, and the league posted all sorts of record regular-season and postseason ratings this season despite recent expansion of the regular season and the playoffs. So it’s not hard to see “that’s coming” as an accurate statement, unless someone intervenes to stop this NFL expansion in a way that has not happened to date.

[Pro Football Talk]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.