The NFL's competition committee will recommend to owners that they begin hiring full-time officials in time for the 2017 season, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The decision, reached during a series of recent meetings to prepare for next week's owners meetings, represents an acceleration of a previously reported timeline. It would also be a significant change in the way the league has long administered its officiating program. For most of its recent history, officials have been part-time employees and union members who work other jobs during the week and in the offseason.

The league will focus first on referees, following a structure outlined years ago by former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira. The league's collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) allows it to convert and/or hire referees into full-time roles, but most officials have resisted.

The committee's recommendation is to approach referees first and give them an opportunity to phase into a program that would be mandatory by the end of this decade. The league is prepared for some current referees to opt out and either leave the league or accept a demotion to another on-field role.