Extra Points: Onside Kick, 18-Game Season, Olympics, UFL, Lions

Since the rule change that prevented running starts on onside kicks came to pass in 2018, the onside kick has been rendered largely irrelevant. The league greenlighting an experiment involving the XFL-style kickoff will further tilt the odds toward receiving teams, as onside kicks now must be declared in advance. Teams were 2-for-41 in onside kicks last season and 3-for-56 in 2022. The Eagles’ proposal to replace the onside kick with a fourth-and-20 play failed, just as similar offerings have in the recent past. but competition committee member Rich McKay hopes some momentum for this alternative will build in 2025.

There was a lot to do to get the kickoff proposal passed this year, so I’m for that next year,” McKay said (via the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin) of further discussion on the fourth-and-20 option. “There’s no question that, I call them the traditionalists, they don’t like that discussion very much. But I do think there’s something to discuss there. Because we’ll have another year of onside kick data, which I bet you shows us we’re not recovering very many.”

The NFL has made a few changes over the past decade to inject more drama into on-field sequences, allowing two-point conversion returns and moving the extra point back. The kickoff change qualifies as a far more radical effort; this effort going well in 2024 could open up discussion on the fourth-and-20 option a year from now.

Briefly shifting gears from draft-geared content, here are more recent news to come out of the pro football universe:

  • The NFL also recently moved its trade deadline back a week, though multiple teams championed a proposal to slide the deadline back two weeks. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio recently connected these proposals to a future in which the NFL pushes its regular season to 18 games. Some around the NFL view that as likely, though Florio does not expect this long-rumored topic to become a front-burner matter until the next CBA (the current deal expires after the 2030 season). New NFLPA president Jalen Reeves-Maybin did not dismiss the idea outright. “I think that people are kind of running with it right now cause it slipped out there,” Reeves-Maybin said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “But I think there’s a lot of other things to gain, and when that time comes, we’ll address that.” If/when this becomes a bargaining point, further expansion to the schedule will likely require a major concession from the NFL.
  • More momentum has emerged for NFL players to participate in the flag football program when it debuts at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Discussions between the league and the union have begun, and NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent said (via the Sports Business Journal’s Daniel Kaplan) he expects players to be permitted to play in the Olympics.
  • The USFL and recent XFL incarnations have sent players to the NFL; the Cowboys carry two Pro Bowlers (Brandon Aubrey, KaVontae Turpin) from the USFL. The new UFL has produced a player to monitor early. Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates, who has made a 64- and 62-yard field goals already, has drawn interest from multiple teams, per the Detroit News Tony Paul. The Lions have reached out to the Detroit-based UFL club, Paul adds. NFL teams can contact UFL clubs about players, Birkett adds, but they are not supposed to contact players directly. The Cowboys added Aubrey after last year’s USFL season; Bates cannot join an NFL team until the UFL’s season wraps. Until this UFL season, Bates — a Central Arkansas soccer player and Texas State kickoff specialist — had not made a field goal in a game since high school. The Texans waived him after barely a week last year, but this UFL start certainly puts him on the radar for another NFL opportunity.
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