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NFL and Players Association on the verge of extended labor peace

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During their life together, the NFL and its Players Association have often interacted like a married couple – quite fond of each other, but prone to angry spats about who is right and who is wrong.

Still, they have waded through the trouble spots and co-existed quite well since the late 1980s, aware that what’s best for one is usually best for the other.

The latest example of this seems to be on the horizon. After bitching and moaning at each other about an expanded regular schedule and revenue sharing, the NFL and the NFLPA are on the verge of agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement that would guarantee labor peace for the next decade. And it all could be done within the next week.

The best part of it is, the new deal will have something in it that’s very exciting for the fans – an extra regular-season game and expanded playoff format.

According to NFL.com, the league owners will get what they’ve been asking for, the expansion of the playoff field to seven teams per conference and the addition of a 17th regular season game, which would shorten the preseason to three games per team. And the players will get paid for it.

Here’s how the playoffs would work: Only one team from each conference would receive a first-round bye. That would result in a new schedule featuring six games on wild-card weekend – three on Saturday and three on Sunday.

Keep in mind that adding more important games to the schedule is a high priority for ownership. It enables them to charge the networks more for the rights to their games.

No changes have been made to the postseason format since the playoffs were expanded to 12 teams in 1990.

This all could happen in time for the 2020 season, as long as there are no complications. The new fiscal year for the league begins March 18.

“That’s been agreed to for a long time,” source familiar with the CBA talks told the website. “There wasn’t a lot of disagreement to that issue.”

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What will help make it more palatable for the players is the teams that get the first-round bye will get postseason pay for the weekend. That perk is missing from the current CBA.

The adoption of the 17-game regular season schedule is the hardest part of the equation. The players have long resisted the notion, saying it would expose them to more potential injuries.

“When I talk to the guys, I don’t think many people want to do it,” Jacksonville Jaguars union rep Calais Campbell told LarryBrownSports.com. “Really, you talk to guys and I don’t think anybody wants to do it. It’s going to be very, very tough. I know the ownership’s really hard on it. We’re definitely talking, trying to figure out what we need to do, how we can make this thing work. It’s going to be a process, but 17 [games], that’s very tough.”

If the change is made, it wouldn’t be incorporated until at least 2021.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt told Sports Illustrated last year that adding a 17th game could mean at least long road trip for each team.

“If you replaced a game, perhaps two, with one regular-season game it would give you an odd number of games with 17,” Hunt said. “One thought is you could play at least some of those games at a neutral site and obviously internationally would be one way to do that.”

According to the league, the addition of a 17th game would mean more money for the players. In the new CBA, their share of the revenue would increase from 47 to 48 percent for the first 16 games and then to $48.5 percent for a possible 17th.

If the league keeps a 16-game schedule, the players will make somewhere between $2.5 and $3 billion over what would be a 10-year deal. If a 17-game schedule is approved, that would equate to an extra $5 billion for the players.

NFL owners were scheduled to meet in New York on Thursday to talk about all of this with the NFLPA. That will be followed by a conference call among the player representatives on Friday.