Since winning their sixth Super Bowl last month, the Patriots remain the talk of the NFL, even if they’ve been relatively low-key when it comes to the league’s free-agent signing period, which began on March 13.
The spotlight is sure to follow the club next week, when pro football’s power brokers convene for the 2019 NFL Annual Meeting. For the fourth time in seven years, the yearly springtime gathering will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, a popular location for the league’s owners, general managers, head coaches, and other influential executives, including Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The meeting officially opens on Sunday evening and closes Wednesday afternoon. However, most of the real business – debating and voting on rule change, bylaw, and resolution proposals, as well as other league issues – typically takes place on the Monday and Tuesday in between.
In past years, the Patriots have actively sought to amend certain rules by sponsoring their own proposals. For the fourth consecutive year, though, New England did not submit any such motions. Nevertheless, there seem to be at least a few items on this year’s agenda that the Patriots might like to see approved.
REPLAYS UNDER REVIEW
There are 16 proposals to alter the NFL rule book this year. Seven were submitted by the NFL’s Competition Committee, the remainder by various clubs. Many appear to overlap.
Proposal 6, by the Competition Committee, seeks a one-year trial period that would expand instant replay reviews to include (among other things) pass interference and roughing the passer penalties. Washington has submitted two proposals (numbers 9 and 10), one calling for all plays in a game to be subject to instant replay review and coaches’ challenges, and another that would allow personal fouls to be reviewable.
In Proposal 11, Kansas City is asking for the latter to include personal fouls that are called, as well as those that aren’t called, and that they be among the plays that coaches can challenge. Carolina, the L.A. Rams, Philadelphia, and Seattle have partnered on a proposal, No. 12, which would give coaches the freedom to challenge calls (made or not made by officiating crews on the field) involving player safety.
Philadelphia (No. 13) and Denver (Nos. 14 and 15) are offering solo proposals to have specific plays or circumstances included in the allowable instant replay review system.
At prior Annual Meetings, the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick have submitted and argued in favor of changing the rule book to allow head coaches more leeway when it comes to challenging officiating decisions and having plays reviewed. It would be fair to assume, therefore, that New England might support any or all of these similar proposed changes.
New England is always well-represented at the Annual Meeting, and this year will be no different. According to the NFL's Media Information Guide, Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft is scheduled to serve on four NFL Committees, including the Media Committee which he chairs. He’s also slated to sit on the NFL Network, Finance, and Compensation Committees. All are returning seats for Kraft.
Patriots president Jonathan Kraft will reprise his role as chairman of the Digital Media Committee and serve on the Business Ventures Committee, of which he’s been a member for several years.
Head coach Bill Belichick is also expected to attend and take part in the mandatory NFL Coaches Breakfast on Tuesday morning. For that hour, he and the league's other 31 head coaches must field questions from the media.
DEALS TO BE DONE?
It’s possible, of course, that New England could continue to conduct roster-related business next week. With all the key decision-makers from each of the 32 teams being in the same place at the same time, it’s conceivable, for example, that additional contract extensions/restructures, free agent signings, and draft choice trades could be executed.
A patriots.com team will be on the ground in Phoenix to cover whatever transpires next week. Look for written and video updates Monday and Tuesday right here on patriots.com.