The NFL and NFL Players Association are closing in on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The agreement will include a 17-game regular season which could begin as early as the 2020 campaign.

Both parties have made meaningful progress towards the new agreement, which would prevent a 2021 work stoppage. The current CBA runs through the 2020 season.

While the Players Association has publicly opposed a longer schedule, citing safety concerns for players. However, team owners are reportedly ready to make their fair share of concessions to get the longer schedule.

Fans shouldn’t expect to see their team play an extra home game every second year though, as a 17-game regular season will likely include one neutral-site game for each team each year. This likely means that the league’s international series will be ramped up. With the longer season, it will reportedly result in a shorter preseason and could help to expand the postseason field from 12 teams to 14 teams.

If the playoff format were to see an expansion of one more team in each conference making it, then the opening round would see the only the top team in each conference receiving a bye, rather than two. One of the games on Wild Card Weekend could even be played on a Monday night.

Any expansion to the playoffs would not require the approval of the players’ union.

Where most of the discussions have been in these negotiations have been around the revenue split. Currently, the players receive between 47% and 48.5% of the revenue each year from the estimated $15 billion revenue the NFL generates annually.

The new CBA could also include the following changes:
Less punitive marijuana policy
Neutral arbitrators replacing commissioner Roger Goodell in presiding over off-field disciplinary cases
Tweaks to the rookie contract system

A new CBA could be ready and in place just after the new year begins or by early February, around the time of the Super Bowl.