The current Collective Bargaining Agreement runs through the 2020 season, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about what the next CBA might be like. In fact, the midway point is often a time for evaluation.
Commissioner Roger Goodell's role in off-the-field discipline has been a big subject of debate, and it's sure to be a hotly discussed issue in the ensuing CBA. But one issue that hasn't been as popular is player development. That is expected to be a key subject when the NFL Players Association and the NFL begin formal discussions.
Sources informed of the situation said CBA extension talks could happen soon, and almost certainly will start before the year is over. The talks likely would be prompted by the league, but it's hard to imagine both sides wouldn't be open to discussions (no talks are yet scheduled).
The economics of the business could trump all other talks, but it's far from the only important issue.
Amid grumbling from coaches, personnel executives and John Madden about the level of play, improving the quality of the game is expected to be a major talking point between the league and the NFLPA.
Coaches have been asking for more practices and more teaching opportunities after the last CBA limited both the number of practices and how teams practice.
Coaches are hoping for increased practice time for younger players who are still learning. If players don't see the field Sunday, they wouldn't be getting as much contact as their counterparts who regularly play. In essence, a Jayvee practice could be added, giving coaches another few hours to train players.
As of now, there are just 10 players on a practice squad, and that's up from a few years ago. If there was an added practice or practices during the week, the amount of players on a practice squad could go up as well -- that could benefit all sides.
In addition, more practice could go a long way in improving the quality of play.
Of course, there are other major issues to address in the next CBA. Money will continue to be a big part of talks. With the salary cap expected to rise -- especially after a robust free-agency period in 2015 and another one slated for 2016 -- a push for increased practice time probably won't grab much attention.
Shortening the preseason and increasing the playoff field will be topics, as well.
Nearly five years into the CBA, it's drawing closer to a time when both sides will come together to begin discussing an extension. There should be some new things for each side to consider once they meet.