The National Football League is planning on expanding their current regular season format of 16 games to 17 total games, pending a new media deal, according to NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero.
An official announcement would not weeks, and potentially months, as the league must first negotiate one new media contract in order for there to be 17 regular season games starting in time for the 2021 season, per the collective bargaining agreement.
Per the report, one team source who is apprised of the discussions said: “We’re all anticipating it’s going to happen.”
With the expansion of the regular season would come a reduction in preseason games, which would be cut to either two or three games, and there would still be one bye week for each team in the expanded 17-game season. This would mean there would be 18 total weeks in a regular season to accommodate all 17 games and a bye week for each team.
The current 16-game season has been in place since 1978, when two games were added to the schedule.
The current pandemic reportedly increased the urgency of this situation for both NFL owners and the NFLPA.
While the salary cap is expected to suffer a significant drop in 2021, a 17th game, as part of a new media deal, could very week boost it above the current $175 million floor, per the report.
The expanded schedule would also open up more doors for the league for potential new neutral-site and international games, and the NFL has already been playing in the United Kingdom in Mexico, but is interested in games potentially being played in Canada, China, Japan, Germany, and Brazil as well.