NFL Teams Submit Possible Rules Changes

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The NFL will have its annual spring league meeting March 24-27, and on the agenda will be a set of proposed rules changes that were submitted by teams and announced on Wednesday.

Onside Kick Alternative

Over recent years, the onside kick has become less and less a factor in the NFL, and this past year, it was almost pointless. From 2000 to 2007, onside kicks were recovered 23% of the time. The league then changed rules as to where players could line up, and through 2017, that percentage dropped to 16%. The rules were changed once more, and over the last six years, just 9% of onside kicks were successful.

This past season, there were 97 onside kick attempts, and just five of them were recovered by the kicking team.

Back on the table is a proposal to give teams an option for maintaining possession after a score – try an onside kick, or attempt to convert a 4th and 20 from the kicking team’s 20-yard line. The Philadelphia Eagles are the submitting team, and Pennsylvania online sportsbooks have them tied with the Dallas Cowboys as favorites to win the NFC East in 2024.

Extra Replay Challenge

At the moment, the only way that an NFL coach will get a third replay challenge is if he is successful on both of his first two. The Detroit Lions would like to change this, and give head coaches a third challenge if either of their first two are successful.

The Lions proposed this same rules change last year, but it was not adopted.

Penalty Challenge

The NFL experimented briefly with allowing coaches to challenge pass interference calls. It did not go well, and was not renewed for a second year. Right now, the only things that coaches can challenge are related to possession, field position, out-of-bounds, and scoring plays.

The Indianapolis Colts would like to change that by giving coaches the ability to challenge any called penalty in the final two minutes of the game, and for the Colts, this is personal. Last year, they lost a game to the Cleveland Browns when cornerback Darrell Baker Jr. was flagged twice on the Browns final game-winning drive. Owner Jim Irsay claimed on social media that the league admitted to him that they made a mistake.

“I believe that we need to institute instant replay for all calls, including penalties, in the last two minutes of all games,” wrote Irsay.

Had the Colts won that game, they would have finished tied for first in the AFC South instead of finishing in third. Indiana online sportsbooks have them finishing third again this year, with the Houston Texans the favorite to win the division at +150.

Eliminate First Touch Spot

You know the rule, even if you didn’t know what it was called. The “first touch spot” is when the kicking team on a punt is the first to touch the ball downfield. The ball remains active, and the receiving can pick it up and still advance the ball. After doing this they get a choice – take the ball where the return ended, or take it where it was first touched by the kicking team.

This is also proposed by the Eagles, and it would eliminate that option.

Non-Game Play Rules Proposals

Beyond these four proposed rules changes that would alter the game on the field, there are eight other proposed changes that teams will vote on in the final week of March.

There are competing proposals to move the league’s trade deadline further into the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers propose moving it to the Tuesday after Week 9. The Browns, Lions, Eagles, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington Commanders are all backing the change to after Week 10.

The Eagles would like stadium game clocks to display tenths of seconds in the final minute of each half. The Buffalo Bills want to change injury reporting rules for players not traveling with the team. The Bills also want the ability to elevate a third player from the practice squad to be an emergency quarterback.

The Lions want to remove the requirement that players appear on the 53-man roster for at least one day in order to be designated to return. Detroit also wants an unlimited number of designated return transactions in the postseason, and eight such transactions in the regular season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars want the coach’s booths to come with what is called a “working box” of the NFL’s Hawk-Eye replay system. This would allow coaches to see replay angles that have yet to be broadcast on television, making their decision about challenging a play faster and more informed.

Adoption of each rule requires the approval of 75% of league owners.

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