Full-time game officials will be on the field this season.
The NFL will hire up to 24 full-time game officials for the 2017 season from its current crop of 124 officials, the league and the NFL Referees Association announced Wednesday.
The NFL and the NFLRA agreed to experiment with full-time officials as part of the last collective bargaining agreement and the NFLRA approved the move. The program will allow current officials to apply to become full-time.
"We believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game," said Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, in a statement. "We share a common goal, which is to make our game as great as it can possibly be, and look forward to working together on this new effort."
Full-time officials will be hired at each of the seven officiating positions.
The league believes the move to 21-24 full-time officials will enhance communication between officials working on and off the field during games. It also will give the league's officiating department a chance to work with the NFLRA in identifying effective ways to utilize off-field time for full-time game officials throughout the calendar year.
"NFL officials are always looking to improve, and we believe that additional time, particularly in the offseason, will be positive," said Scott Green, executive director of the NFLRA. "We're looking forward to working together with the league on this effort."