Beginning in 2021, the NFL plans to expand its regular season schedule from 16 games to 17.
Adding another game will soften the financial blow from COVID-19’s impact on the current season, which could cost the league $4 billion in lost revenue.
The new schedule could also prevent the salary cap from dropping to an estimated $175 million, a decrease from 2020’s $198.2 million, due to lack of revenue.
Both the NFL and its 32 clubs will further benefit from new media contracts, which will need to be negotiated to make room for the 17th game.
All of the league’s media right contracts expire by 2022, and the potential for new deals is inspiring a frenzy among networks:
- ESPN and NBC are engaging in a billion-dollar bidding war for “Sunday Night Football.”
- Fox has said it’s willing to spend as much as $2 billion annually for its broadcasting rights, dropping Thursdays to retain Sundays if necessary.
Expanding the season would push the Super Bowl back to the second week in February.
This expansion marks the league’s first since 1978, when it added two games to every team’s schedule.
Players narrowly approved the league’s ability to add another week to the schedule in the latest collective bargaining agreement. Some of the game’s biggest stars, like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, opposed.
An official announcement is not expected for several weeks, according to NFL Network insiders.