Work remains to be done in NFL’s bid to revamp offseason calendar

Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell plans to continue negotiations with the players’ union on proposed changes to the sport’s offseason calendar (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Next year’s NFL draft will be held in May. That was announced Tuesday by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

But other proposed changes to the sport’s offseason calendar are not yet set, according to Goodell and others within the sport.

The league and the players’ union have had conversations for several months about the league’s desire to revamp the offseason calendar. According to people familiar with the situation, the league originally wanted to move the NFL scouting combine from late February to early March, the start of free agency from mid-March to early April and the NFL draft from late April to early May.

But the union, according to people familiar with the deliberations, balked at a later start to free agency. Union officials argued that players don’t want to wait any longer to find out for which teams — and in which cities — they’ll be playing the following season, and to know what their contracts will be worth.

The draft indeed is moving to May, at least for one year. Goodell, speaking at a news conference at the conclusion of a one-day owners’ meeting Tuesday in Boston, said the league would decide in the next week or so whether to hold the 2014 draft on May 8-10 or May 15-17.

Radio City Music Hall, which hosts the draft, is starting an annual spring event that conflicts with the draft.

“At this late stage, for us to do it the right way, we don’t see any choice but to move the date,” Goodell said.

But the league has not decided, according to Goodell, whether to keep the draft in May beyond next year. Goodell said the league will explore the possibility of returning the draft to April but holding it at another venue, possibly in a city other than New York.

ESPN reported Monday that the league and union were close to a deal by which the draft would be held in May beginning next year. That would continue for two more years after that, according to that report.

According to the ESPN report, free agency could begin prior to the scouting combine in 2015 and 2016.

A person with knowledge of the league’s view of the deliberations said Tuesday that there is “no deal” between the NFL and the union on the matter and expressed the view that such an agreement is not particularly close.

A person familiar with the union’s view of the deliberations said there had been no in-depth discussions on the issue between DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, and Goodell.

“De hasn’t really spoken to Roger about it in detail,” that person said. “I think it’s up for discussion. I don’t think it’s anywhere near concrete.”

The union declined to comment through a spokesman.

Goodell said Tuesday that the possibility of modifying other offseason events remains under consideration.

“On the other events … we think there’s great benefits to that,” Goodell said. “We didn’t reach any conclusion. We are negotiating that with the union. We have a discussion with them sometime in the next couple weeks. I’m sure that will come up. We think that’s a good change for the fans and for football.”

Goodell technically could change the dates of the draft without the union’s consent. The union would have to agree to change the start of the league year — and thus, the opening of free agency. But Goodell said he wants the entire process to be done cooperatively.

“This is not secretive,” Goodell said. “We share what the overall strategy is, what we’re trying to accomplish, with the players. We went to them initially to do that, to get their feedback. And we want to make sure we do it right, and that includes getting player input in that.”

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