Over the last decade, we have seen the NFL turn into a juggernaut thanks in large part to the incredible interest in the offseason. While not entirely a year-round operation for fans, the NFL has significant interest in approximately ten months out of the year. The league is now considering a variety of changes to the calendar. Reasons remain a bit nebulous, but there is evidence for a couple of possible reasons.
As it currently stands, fans get plenty of coverage much of the year. Training camp, the regular season and the postseason do plenty good on their own, but fans crave so much more. As soon as the season ends, the draft season has already begun heating up. That lasts through late April, and covers the Combine, mock drafts and the actual Draft. Free agency is sprinkled into the mix in March, which is pretty ideal timing when people are going worn out by mock drafts. After the Draft, rookie camp in May, followed by OTAs and veteran minicamps get the league to late June, before a slow-down in July leading up to training camp.
The league now finds themselves potentially shortening that slow period before training camp. Adam Schefter is reporting the NFL is considering moving the Combine, free agency and the Draft back by a couple weeks. According to Schefter's tweet, the scouting combine would move from February to early March, free agency would be moved to April, and the Draft would move to early May. Finally, the league would have all 32 teams start training camp the same day, as opposed to the rolling start we currently see.
One of the first comments many made was that this is meant to set in motion the 18-game schedule Roger Goodell seems to badly desire. The NFLPA has adamantly opposed the 18-game schedule, and nothing seems to have really changed in recent months to indicate this addition might happen.
Schefter provided a few possible reasons for making these changes:
Want to know one more reason why NFL wants the draft in early May? TV sweeps are in May. Bigger ratings, bigger dollars.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 22, 2013
Idea of overhauled calendar is to lengthen NFL off-season and make football relevant over longer period with one big event each month.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 22, 2013
Under proposal, all NFL teams also would kick off training camp on same summer day, making it the official launch of the football season.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 22, 2013
All three of these points make a lot of sense. At the same time, it would not surprise me to find out the league is also trying to work toward the 18-game schedule with these changes. There is some concern about getting rookies into camp and getting free agents to their new cities, settled and working with their coaching staffs. I'm not really sure how much difference the two weeks make.
It is worth noting however that with some graduation dates pushed into June, this might provide more opportunities for rookies on quarter systems. For example, LaMichael James missed virtually the entire OTA process last year because Oregon's academic calendar did not wrap up until later in June. If things were pushed back two weeks, he would have been able to get in at least some measure of OTA work before training camp began.
This change would create a bit more time in February with nothing happening, but it would also shorten the time at the end when things are absolutely dead. I would lean toward liking it, but I can also see getting fed up with mock drafts even sooner with nothing happening before a later Combine.
What do you make of this potential change?