Not even two months ago, the New England Patriots hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy to end the 2016 NFL season. And with last league year firmly in the rear-view mirror, the league’s attention has been directed towards the future.
Free agency was the first step, the next will be taken this week: Representatives of the 32 franchises meet in Phoenix, Arizona to discuss potential rule changes and other things NFL. The most intriguing ones for the Patriots and the league are as follows:
Will there be discussions on Jimmy Garoppolo, Malcolm Butler?
While the Patriots do not appear to be willing to trade Jimmy Garoppolo just yet, the Cleveland Browns will reportedly give it another shot this week. With the Browns owning eight picks in the first two rounds of both this and next year’s draft, the team has the draft capital to make an intriguing offer to New England – one they might try to sell over the next few days.
Another big-name Patriot who seems to be a trade-target is restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler. Butler has had a visit with the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago but the team still holding his rights has not entered any preliminary negotiations – and likely will not until the 27-year old has signed his first round tender sheet.
The Las Vegas Raiders
Later today, the teams will vote on the proposed relocation of the Raiders franchise from Oakland to Las Vegas. As things stand right now, it is believed that the vote will be approved and the team consequently leave the 11th biggest metropolitan area in the country for the 29th biggest.
The move would also be the third relocation in the league since January 2016. Since then, the Rams have left St. Louis and the Chargers San Diego; both to move to Los Angeles. To speak in market sizes, the two teams have traded the 20th and 17th largest markets for number two – different than what a potential Raiders move will look like.
But: money talks. And with Las Vegas willing to finance a stadium by using public funding, Raiders owner Mark Davis has declared his intentions to leave Oakland if need be.
Speeding up the game
The NFL reportedly looks to speed up the tempo of the game. In order to achieve that, there are different proposals introduced by the league and the competition committee. One is the introduction of fewer but longer commercial breaks, to keep the flow of the game intact as well as possible.
Other ideas floating around are shortening overtime periods from 15 to 10 minutes and re-working the replay system: The referee would not go under the hood to review close calls but take a look at them on a tablet while discussing with the league offices in New York.
Making every call challengable
One proposal that seemingly would go against the efforts to speed up the game – and thus appears to have little chance of surviving the owners meetings – is making every call challengable. The Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks both proposed a rule change that would leave a team's number of challenges untouched but widen the scope of what could potentially be disputed by a head coach. In the past, the Patriots have been proponents of such a rule change and would likely support the proposal.
Changing the kicking game
Other proposals that might have an impact on New England have been made by the Washington Redskins and the competition committee. Washington has come up with a plan that would bring a touchback on a kickoff to the 20 instead of the 25-yard line if the football is kicked through the uprights. With a player like Stephen Gostkowski on the roster, the Patriots might benefit if the proposal is passed.
The potential rule change proposed by the competition committee would outlaw leaps on field goal and extra point attempts. New England has successfully used the leap three times over the past two seasons.
The return of Pat Patriot?
One proposal that will not directly impact the play has been made by the Philadelphia Eagles and would allow teams to use alternate helmets in a different color. In the Patriots' case this would allow them to bring back the white helmets that have been part of their throwback uniforms until 2012. A rule change might thus lead to the reactivation of Pat Patriot.