NFL’s offseason calendar unlikely to change

Robert Griffin III, Adam Gettis and Chris Chester

From left, Robert Griffin III, Adam Gettis and Chris Chester participate in OTAs last May. The NFL’s offseason schedule is likely to remain mostly the same, because the players don’t want to delay free agency.

The NFL’s proposed changes to the sport’s offseason calendar are unlikely to be enacted because of ongoing concerns by the players’ union over delaying the annual start of free agency, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

According to one of those people, there has been “some dialogue” between the league and the union about the changes sought by the NFL, which include pushing back the scouting combine, the opening of the free agent market and the draft each year.

The discussions are “unlikely to go anywhere” because of the union’s opposition to later free agency, according to that person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league and union have not commented publicly on the lack of progress in the deliberations.

A second person familiar with the matter called that description of the union’s ongoing opposition to later free agency and the state of the talks accurate. The union’s wariness to a later start to free agency has been apparent since the league’s desire to change the offseason calendar first became public a couple months ago.

Union officials appear convinced that players firmly oppose later free agency because they want to know as soon as possible where they’ll be playing the following season. The union does not appear to have budged on that issue.

The league would like to push back the NFL scouting combine from late February to early March; the opening of the free agent market from mid-March to early April; and the NFL draft from late April to early May. That would give the sport a significant event in each of those months and potentially would enable the NFL to keep fans’ interest over a greater portion of the year.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the annual league meeting last month in Phoenix that he was waiting to hear from DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, on the topic.

“We presented an alternative calendar for the offseason,” Goodell said at the league meeting. “We think that it makes a lot of sense. I think the players saw the benefits of doing that and they wanted to talk to their membership.”

The proposed changes would have to be approved by both the union and the team owners.

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