When the NFL and NFLPA agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020, there was an underlying belief that a 17-game schedule was on the horizon. Lo and behold, one season later, we’re in our first season with a 17-game schedule and increased playoff field.
But what if that is only the first example of “expansion” the NFL puts in front of us.
In discussing the possibility of the NFL gifting St. Louis an expansion team in an attempt to help resolve the city’s conflict with the league that stems from the Rams’ unceremonious departure, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio offers up the possibility of expansion. Moreover, Florio goes as far as to share that discussions revolving around expansion have already begun. And in a BIG way.
“The conversations about possibly growing to 40 teams already are happening, at the highest levels of the league,” Florio writes. “It will take time to get there, but in time it will happen. The money will make it so.”
A 40-team NFL sounds absolutely bonkers. Florio floating the idea of a preliminary playoff field of 20 teams that trims down to 16 comes off as ridiculous. But I’ll put nothing past a league that pushed through a CBA just before a global pandemic could fully get its grasp on the United States. And I’ll never not think the NFL isn’t always searching for its next big pay day. After all, billion dollar entities don’t become this by simply sitting on their hands.
Make an even 18-game schedule, fit in a new playoff round, and squeeze out money from TV rights deals, endorsements, and from wherever else the cash can come from in this endeavor. Because, as is often the case, the argument for expansion revolves around money. Remember, Rule No. 1 is follow the money. And Rule No. 2 is see Rule No. 1.
It can be as simple as more teams means more games, which means more cash flow. Tack on some teams. Hit some new markets. In addition to St. Louis, Florio notes how London has two NFL-ready stadiums. Taking the brand international would bring in some new money. And while we’re on the international tip, entertaining Toronto as a possible expansion city is sensible. Back in June, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg shared his belief that his city will be the home of an NFL team within 10 years. Imagining eight divisions having five teams each would otherwise seem surreal if we didn’t know any better.
Boom! Just like that, we’ve brought in five new teams to bring the league to 37. All while spitballing on a Tuesday afternoon. And that’s before we went fully out of pocket and considered Chicago as a possible destination for a second team — especially if the Bears were to move to Arlington Heights or some other suburb to be named later.
With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear chatter surrounding this grow louder as we move forward. This isn’t to say expect it as quickly was we got a 17-game NFL schedule. But if the league can convince the NFLPA there is enough money to be made and jobs to be had by bringing on another game and some more teams, expansion truly isn’t out of the question.
Although, this entire conversation brings me to this thought: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. We’ll keep tabs on this possible storyline as it develops, as I doubt this is the last we’ll hear of it.