PHOENIX – The scene shifts this week away from the NovaCare Complex out to Arizona, site of the 2023 NFL Annual Meeting, and if you aren't familiar with what happens there, here is a refresher course …
1. This is an opportunity to gather all of the league's top executives – including owners, general managers, and head coaches – and discuss, among other things, rule and policy changes for the season ahead. How will the game look different this season in terms of on-field play? The Competition Committee is a central part of what happens between now and the end of the day on Tuesday. The meetings end then and team personnel disperse on Wednesday.
2. One of the items that could be finalized is that contract extension reportedly on the table for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. According to reports, his deal could be extended for three more seasons. Goodell has been the NFL Commissioner since replacing Paul Tagliabue in 2006.
3. Here are some of the rules changes that could be considered in the next couple of days:
• Permit teams to maintain possession by executing a 4th-and-20 attempt from their opponent's 20-yard line. The XFL is a template here – the XFL allows clubs to attempt a 4th-and-15 in lieu of an onside kick (but only in the fourth quarter).
• Need a third quarterback? The NFL could enact this rule for 2023: Enable teams to carry a third quarterback on their inactive list or practice squad list who would be eligible to play if that team's first two quarterbacks suffered injuries.
• Allow players to wear "0" as their jersey number (proposed by the Eagles). Simply put, there just aren't a whole lot of available jersey numbers remaining what with retired jersey numbers and such. Let's see if it passes. Seems like a no-brainer, right?
• Make play clock adjustments after instant replay reversals "consistent with other timing rules."
• Expand coaches' challenges to include personal fouls. This one would be extremely interesting with a league that wants to keep games within the television window and limit controversial officials' calls.
• Provide teams with "more opportunities" for a third challenge. Currently, a team gains back a challenge if it wins its first two challenges.
• Expand instant replay to "allow for consultation regarding penalty assessment." Not sure exactly what this means. We will see if the Competition Committee has clarity.
• Allow replay officials to review failed fourth-down attempts. How necessary would this be? Can't remember a time when this was a concern, but we shall see.
• Make roughing-the-passer penalties subject to review or challenge. According to post-Super Bowl reports, the Competition Committee looked at 80 roughing-the-passer penalties in the 2022 season and found just three of them were questionable.
• Alter the crackback block prohibition. This is in the realm of player safety, so let's see where this goes.
4. Those are the proposals that are likely to be discussed. According to reports, there has been no formal proposal to discuss the "tush push," or whatever you want to call it, that the Eagles have made famous in certain short-yardage situations. They were extremely successful in 2022 having quarterback Jalen Hurts drive forward with his tremendous leg strength, and with the aid of players at times pushing him from behind, to convert those plays (29 conversions on 32 attempts). So, it lives, and if the Eagles decide to use the technique again, we will see how defenses adjust.
5. The team's offseason conditioning program will start at the NovaCare Complex right around the time of the 2023 NFL Draft in late April, and the team released its practice schedule for the spring. There is a mandatory Rookie Minicamp on the weekend of May 6-7, but there is no team mandatory minicamp (the Eagles and Bengals are the only teams with this policy). There are six Organized Team Activity practices scheduled, all of which are voluntary: Tuesday, May 30; Thursday, June 1; Friday, June 2; Monday, June 5; Tuesday, June 6; and Thursday, June 8. Certainly, Sirianni will explain the philosophy here as he works to bring back the team from a long 2022 season – both physically and emotionally – and integrates new players into the schemes.
6. Free agency is not finished, so don't jump into your NFL Draft geeking all the way. There are still good players available and you're going to see a bunch signed to one-year contracts in the weeks to come. The Eagles have taken the "one-year-contract" approach in free agency with new players this season. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Rashaad Penny, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, cornerback Greedy Williams, and safeties Justin Evans and Terrell Edmunds – all one-year contracts. Prove-it deals, if you will. Players are betting on themselves to have success this season and, as we saw with cornerback James Bradberry last year, there is a lot of incentive to thrive. The Eagles have had good success with this approach in the past, as well. Could be more on the way before the draft, too.
7. By retaining center Jason Kelce, defensive end Brandon Graham, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and working out a new contract with offensive tackle Lane Johnson, the Eagles have set it up nicely for all four of those players to play their entire careers as Eagles. That's special. I remember when former tight end Brent Celek was celebrated for doing the same at the time of his retirement following Super Bowl LII. Wide receiver Mike Quick did it. Same with the late Frank LeMaster. Before him, you're going back a long way to find names – Chuck Bednarik would be among the most notable. So, it's a time for pause and reflection and appreciation as this extremely special era of Philadelphia Eagles football continues into the 2023 campaign.