The best and brightest prospects in the 2013 NFL draft are in Indianapolis this week for the scouting combine, but if the NFL has its way, this will be the last year the event happens in the month of February.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL is proposing a sweeping change to its offseason schedule, where the combine, free agency and the draft would be pushed back:
NFL is proposing to overhaul its calendar, pushing back the combine to early March, free agency to early April, and the draft to early May.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 22, 2013
Schefter did not name any specific target dates, but the move likely means at least a two-week delay in the normal proceedings. This year's combine is being held from Feb. 20-26, free agency begins two weeks later on Mar. 12 and the draft comes a little over a month later from April 25-27.
What do you think of the NFL's proposed schedule changes?
On the surface, the revised schedule is likely meant to give teams a level playing field heading into the offseason.
Executives from the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are at the combine less than three weeks removed from playing in Super Bowl XLVII, while non-playoff teams have had nearly two full months to prepare for their offseasons.
There's obviously no way to change the fact that playoff teams have less time to ready themselves than those squads that miss the postseason. That's the cross you bear when you're a top-shelf squad. But pushing the schedule back a few weeks could give teams a better chance to prepare and get their ducks in a row before starting the offseason.
Schefter also points out another massive motivation for the NFL: television money.
By pushing the draft back until May, which coincides with ratings "sweeps," the league can ostensibly charge more for draft rights, per Schefter:
Want to know one more reason why NFL wants the draft in early May? TV sweeps are in May. Bigger ratings, bigger dollars.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 22, 2013
Last season, more than 25 million viewers watched the draft's first round (when combining the viewership of ESPN and NFL Network). That figure set a record, which has happened every season since the league moved the first round into prime time.
So while moving the offseason festivities back may peeve fans at first, there are plenty of mitigating factors working in the proposal's favor. The schedule overhaul may be in its infancy at the moment, but don't be surprised if the league signs off on this prior to the 2014 offseason.