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Extra Points: Video Reviews, Roughing The Passer, International Series

The 2022 NFL season has been filled with plenty of drama as always, but also controversy owing to on-field officiating. Several examples of calls (or non-calls) made throughout the campaign could lead to significant changes this offseason.

Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports writes that the appetite for an increase in video replay could be growing relative to the past few seasons. Two options proposed in recent years include additional challenges being allowed during a game (or at least expanding which types of plays are made subject to review), and the addition of a ‘sky judge’ to assist officials. Support for the latter lost steam in 2020, though that offseason did see another attempt to increase communication between on-field and replay officials.

NFL EVP of football operations Troy Vincent said at the most recent owners meeting that there will be a “healthy discussion” involving the competition committee this spring. He added, however, his aversion to giving replay officials the ability to call fouls which are not made on the field, saying that such a development would not be “in the best interest of the game.” The support (or lack thereof) for significant alterations could come from the impact reviews make in the remainder of the campaign. Per the NFL rulebook, the 2020 and 2021 seasons were unprecedented in that they saw more than half of plays subject to review overturned.

Here are some other NFL housekeeping notes:

  • Another matter which is likely to be discussed in the spring is roughing the passer penalties. Some owners expressed an interest in making it subject to review in the future during last month’s meeting (video link via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero). One important detail to be worked out in the event the league goes down that route would be whether or not replays become initiated automatically or via coach’s challenges; another would be the question of if roughing the passer could incur automatic ejections, an idea which was brought up in December. As Pelissero notes, however, trepidation is expected on all fronts due in part to the unsuccessful one-year experiment with making pass interference reviewable.
  • Providing an update on the NFL’s international schedule for next year, EVP Peter O’Reilly confirmed (via Pelissero, on Twitter) that plans are currently in place to play three regular season games in London, two in Germany and none in Mexico City. That falls in line with the league’s stated plans for 2023 unveiled in the wake of the first ever game played in Munich. Renovations will prevent contests taking place at Azteca Stadium, but a return there in the future – along with continued expansion of the international series – should be expected.

Panthers Expected To Pursue QB Addition This Offseason

JANUARY 1, 2023: David Newton of ESPN.com hears from multiple executives that Darnold is playing himself into a short-term deal worth between $10MM-$12MM per year. Though Carolina’s difficult salary cap situation will be an obvious factor in its quarterback plans this offseason, Newton expects the club to have interest in a reunion if the price is right. Presumably, that would not preclude using a high draft choice on a collegiate passer.

DECEMBER 25, 2022: The 2022 season has seen plenty of turbulence for the Panthers with a coaching change taking place and the team being wrought with uncertainty at the quarterback position. The encouraging play from the team under interim head coach Steve Wilks is unlikely to change their aggressiveness in finding a long-term signal-caller in the coming offseason, though.

Carolina entered this spring with Sam Darnold under contract on his fifth-year option, but they were widely expected to add at the position after the former first-rounder’s underwhelming performance in 2021. That resulted in an active pursuit of Deshaun Watson, though the maligned passer was wary of Matt Rhule‘s uncertain future with the organization. Those concerns proved to be well-placed, as the latter was fired five weeks into the campaign, one which started off in disastrous fashion for the Panthers’ offense in particular.

That brought on criticism for Baker Mayfield, who had been under center for each of those games. Acquired in July from the Browns long after the Panthers’ interest in him became clear, the former No. 1 pick struggled mightily in his first year in Charlotte. That resulted in his being benched for XFL alum P.J. Walker, and – after Darnold’s return from a preseason ankle sprain – dropped to third place on the depth chart.

In a relatively unsurprising move, Mayfield was waived just under three weeks ago, which led to a season-ending starting role for him with the Rams. Darnold, meanwhile, has served as the Panthers’ starter in each of the past four games, a stretch which has included three wins to give the team a chance of winning the NFC South. The potential for a strong finish from the USC alum could lead to a deal keeping him in Carolina, but a new quarterback is still expected to be acquired soon.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano report that owner David Tepper is thought to be eyeing a move which “solve[s] his quarterback room once and for all.” That likely would not entail a long-term extension for Darnold, and 2021 third-rounder Matt Corral has missed his entire rookie campaign due to a Lisfranc injury. The Ole Miss product will therefore be expected to fill in strictly as a backup in 2023, regardless of who emerges as the starter.

With Carolina currently projected to be in a worse cap situation than most in the upcoming offseason, the draft represents the obvious avenue for the team to add a new No. 1 QB. However, Fowler and Graziano’s colleague David Newton notes that Darnold’s play could “open the possibility” the Panthers at least wait until after the first round of April’s draft to select a signal-caller. Carolina’s Day 2 and 3 set of picks was bolstered midseason by the Christian McCaffrey trade, giving them plenty of options with respect to adding at least another developmental passer.

The failed experiment with Mayfield is simply the latest in a long line of moves the Panthers have made in recent years which underline their need for a long-term solution under center. The spring of 2023 will represent another opportunity to solve the issue, with the team’s decision regarding retaining or replacing Wilks likely to have a significant impact on their plans.

QB Notes: Jets, Pickett, Chiefs, Carr

Zach Wilson will start for the Jets in Week 16, Robert Saleh confirmed. This was the expected Jets path, given the updates on Mike White‘s injured ribs. The short-week assignment made White’s road back tougher, and the team’s preferred starter will have a mini-bye to recover ahead of a possible Week 17 return. White attempted to receive clearance from as many as 10 independent doctors last week, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com adds he is still consulting with doctors. But the Jets are proceeding cautiously with the fifth-year passer. Saleh does not believe the injury White suffered against the Bills is a season-ending malady, Brian Costello of the New York Post tweets. White is due for unrestricted free agency in March.

Here is the latest from the quarterback landscape:

  • After Mitch Trubisky played in most of the past two Steelers games, the team is ready to move its rookie back into action. Mike Tomlin expects Kenny Pickett to start Saturday against the Raiders, Teresa Varley of Steelers.com tweets. Pickett has now sustained two concussions this season.
  • The conditional 2024 pick the Browns obtained from the Panthers for Baker Mayfield will be a fifth-round choice, David Newton of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter). Mayfield needed to hit the 70% snap barrier with the Panthers. The new Rams starter did not come especially close to that, being demoted and then waived.
  • Derek Carr‘s recent Raiders extension — a three-year, $121.4MM pact — gives the team a three-day window following Super Bowl LVII to jettison the quarterback and save $40.5MM. Carr trade rumors are nothing new; he loomed as a trade candidate for much of the Jon Gruden period. But a GM informed the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora he does expect Carr to finally be dealt. Despite the Raiders’ struggles, Carr ranks 10th in QBR. The team’s blockbuster trade for Carr college teammate Davante Adams also might make a trade a tough sell, and the prospect of the Raiders needing to find an upgrade — an impediment to a trade during Gruden’s stay — also makes this a risky path. In his ninth season and having made 141 career starts, Carr is the longest-tenured starting quarterback in Raiders history.
  • Making a push for a second MVP, Patrick Mahomes offered a bit of insight on how he ended up in Kansas City. The sixth-year Chiefs passer said, after a productive meeting with Andy Reid ahead of the 2017 draft, he spoke with multiple teams who indicated they would draft him. During an appearance on Travis and Jason Kelce‘s New Heights podcast (video link), Mahomes said he informed the Chiefs they would need to trade up to at least No. 11 to land him. Mahomes said he did not know the extent of the Saints’ interest at the time — New Orleans held the No. 11 pick — but the Cardinals’ affinity for then-Texas Tech prospect has been known for some time. Arizona picked 13th that year. The Browns also traded their No. 12 pick to the Texans, who chose Deshaun Watson. The Chiefs traded their No. 27 choice, a 2017 third-rounder and their 2018 first to the Bills to secure the No. 10 draft slot. That ended up being a franchise-changing decision.

Updated 2023 NFL Draft Order

Christmas Day’s Broncos-Rams matchup will pit two of the league’s most disappointing teams against one another, and the Seahawks and Lions will have a vested interest in this contest. The loser of this game will give one of the latter teams — via the Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford trades — a better chance of landing a top-three pick in next year’s draft.

At 1-12-1, the Texans are cruising home. The Bears are on their heels, potentially set to become the team that selects the 2023 draft’s first non-quarterback. But eight four- or five-win teams reside behind these two, providing some intrigue for fanbases whose squads are not moving toward the playoffs.

The NFC South’s plunge toward becoming perhaps the worst division in NFL history carries draft stakes as well. The Falcons, Saints and Panthers each have five wins, and Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia (via the Saints’ pre-draft trade this year) would see those picks land in the top 10 as of now. The division-leading Buccaneers would see their draft slot check in no higher than 19th. Should one of Tampa Bay’s challengers vault the current first-place team in the standings, the Bucs would see their 2023 first-round slot rise considerably.

For non-playoff teams, the draft order will be determined by the inverted 2022 standings — plus a series of tiebreakers, starting with strength of schedule — with playoff squads being slotted by their postseason outcome and regular-season record. Here is how the draft order looks entering Week 16:

  1. Houston Texans: 1-12-1
  2. Chicago Bears: 3-11
  3. Detroit Lions (via Rams)
  4. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos)
  5. Arizona Cardinals: 4-10
  6. Indianapolis Colts: 4-9-1
  7. Atlanta Falcons: 5-9
  8. Carolina Panthers: 5-9
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints)
  10. Las Vegas Raiders: 6-8
  11. Jacksonville Jaguars: 6-8
  12. Houston Texans (via Browns)
  13. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-8
  14. Green Bay Packers: 6-8
  15. Seattle Seahawks: 7-7
  16. New England Patriots: 7-7
  17. New York Jets: 7-7
  18. Detroit Lions: 7-7
  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-8
  20. Tennessee Titans: 7-7
  21. Washington Commanders: 7-6-1
  22. Los Angeles Chargers: 8-6
  23. New York Giants: 8-5-1
  24. Baltimore Ravens: 9-5
  25. Denver Broncos (via 49ers through Dolphins)
  26. Dallas Cowboys: 10-4
  27. Cincinnati Bengals: 10-4
  28. Kansas City Chiefs: 11-3
  29. Minnesota Vikings: 11-3
  30. Buffalo Bills: 11-3
  31. Philadelphia Eagles: 13-1

Next year’s draft will feature a 31-pick first round. The Dolphins’ penalty for the Tom BradySean Payton tampering scandal cost them their 2023 first-round choice.

Exclusive QB Franchise Tag Projected To Eclipse $45MM

When the Cowboys placed the exclusive franchise tag on Dak Prescott in 2020, it cost them $31.4MM. If/when the Ravens proceed down this path with Lamar Jackson next year, it will be considerably more expensive.

Although teams have not received projections on next year’s cap yet, the NFL’s 2023 salary ceiling is on track to come in north of $220MM. That will bump the exclusive quarterback tag north of $45MM. Noting a handful of teams are using a $225MM projection for next year’s cap, CBS Sports’ Joel Corry pegs the exclusive QB tag at $45.25MM. No player has ever gone through a season attached to a cap number north of $45MM. Jackson and the Browns’ Deshaun Watson — as of now set to count $54.9MM on Cleveland’s 2023 payroll — would be poised to be the first.

Here are the projected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts for 2023, according to Corry:

  • Quarterback: $32.45MM
  • Running back: $10.1MM
  • Wide receiver: $19.76MM
  • Tight end: $11.36MM
  • Offensive line: $18.26MM
  • Defensive end: $19.74MM
  • Defensive tackle: $18.95MM
  • Linebacker: $20.95MM
  • Cornerback: $18.16MM
  • Safety: $14.47MM
  • Kicker/punter: $5.39MM

An exclusive tag prevents other teams from negotiating with the tagged player. Were the Ravens to place the non-exclusive tag on Jackson, other teams could come in with offer sheets and attempt to pry the former MVP away. Of course, it would cost the signing team two first-rounders if the Ravens passed on matching a Jackson offer sheet after a five-day period.

While the non-exclusive quarterback tag is set to rise past $30MM, the other number that jumps out here is the running back price. That will be a viable fallback option for teams like the Giants (Saquon Barkley) and Raiders (Josh Jacobs). While Barkley is playing out his fifth-year option, the Raiders passed on an $8MM Jacobs 2023 salary. The NFL’s rushing leader, Jacobs will certainly enter 2023 as a tag candidate. The Giants had negotiated with Barkley during their bye week this year, but the sides were not believed to be close on terms. With the team hoping to keep the former No. 2 overall pick, it seems likely — even with Daniel Jones unsigned as well — this low-cost tag will be utilized.

These prices also do not apply to Jessie Bates, Orlando Brown Jr., Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki. Should any of these players be tagged again, their tag figures would be 120% of their 2022 salaries. Players who are not attached to rookie contracts could also be tied to higher tag figures in 2023. Both Allen Robinson and A.J. Green collected more on the tag than their wideout peers in recent years, due to 120% of their previous year’s salary being worth more than the tag price. This scenario would be in play again if teams were keen on keeping certain vets off the market.

P Matt Araiza Will Not Be Charged In Connection With Alleged Gang Rape

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is not charging former Bills punter Matt Araiza in connection with an alleged gang rape, Alex Riggins of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (on Twitter).

Araiza was named in a civil lawsuit that accused he and two other San Diego State football players of raping a then-17-year-old girl in October 2021. The accusation led to the Bills cutting Araiza in August. Buffalo drafted Araiza, 22, in this year’s sixth round. None of the other players implicated in the suit will be charged, according to the Union-Tribune’s Lyndsay Winkley and Teri Figueroa.

The civil suit alleges Araiza had sex with the accuser at an off-campus party and brought her into a bedroom where “a group” of men raped her. The teen said she told friends immediately after she had been raped, and she reported it to the San Diego Police Department the next day. The case went to prosecutors for review in August, but Wednesday’s development will not lead to charges.

The DA’s office indicated it is “clear the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges and there is no path to a potential criminal conviction.” The accuser’s attorney said (via The Athletic’s Tim Graham, on Twitter) the victim’s intoxication on the night of the alleged rape influenced the police’s view of the case. Araiza’s attorney called the civil suit a shakedown in August.

Araiza won the Ray Guy award as the top Division I-FBS punter last season and was drafted 180th overall. The Bills waived him two days after the civil suit surfaced. Buffalo has used Sam Martin, whom Denver released after training camp, as its punter this season.

Odell Beckham Jr. Not Planning To Work Out For Giants, Bills, Cowboys

Months in the making, Odell Beckham Jr.‘s free agency tour will begin Thursday with a Giants visit. Friday, Beckham will depart for Buffalo, with perhaps his most pivotal meeting — with Dallas, which is viewed as the favorite — set for Monday.

These visits will not involve any Beckham workouts, according to the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz, who notes the eight-year veteran wide receiver is not planning to audition for any of the three teams he will visit. While marquee free agents visiting teams and not working out is nothing new, Beckham’s plan will place a greater emphasis on the interested teams’ medical evaluations.

Giants doctors will examine Beckham, who has twice torn his left ACL since October 2020, and this routine will surely continue in Buffalo and Dallas over the next few days. The Giants’ medical evaluation will include an MRI, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Some skepticism regarding Beckham’s capabilities has emerged around the league recently, but the standout pass catcher is believed to have been cleared for work in November. Early December once resided on the latter end of OBJ’s projected return timetable, but his Rams contributions have still convinced teams to wait late into this season.

Beckham, 30, will meet with new Giants power brokers Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, along with staffers who were with the Giants during his five-season New York stay, and reconnect with John Mara. More serious discussions will be expected to commence Friday, Schwartz adds.

The Giants gave Beckham a five-year, $90MM extension just before the 2018 season began, and while that year did include a bounce back from a lost 2017 season, OBJ’s 1,052-yard campaign also happened during a season in which he criticized Eli Manning in a TV interview. The then-Dave Gettleman-led Giants regime traded Beckham to the Browns in March 2019. Among the players exchanged in that deal, only Dexter Lawrence remains with one of those teams.

As for Beckham’s fit with the Schoen-Daboll Giants, he would slide in as a potentially lethal X-factor — depending on his readiness and grasp of Daboll’s system — and help a Giants team that has seen its receiver plan change drastically from September. Ex-Beckham teammate Sterling Shepard is out for the season; so is second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson. Kadarius Toney is now in Kansas City, and Kenny Golladay‘s $18MM-per-year pact has produced next to nothing. Months-long trade candidate Darius Slayton, who was drafted a month after the OBJ trade, is now Daniel Jones‘ No. 1 target.

Jones and Beckham never played together, but if OBJ returns to the Big Apple, he would be a critical aid to the fourth-year quarterback and the team’s quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. That season marks Beckham’s most recent Pro Bowl year. Despite injuries and a poor Cleveland fit, he has remained on the star tier. Teams’ offers during this unique free agency derby will be telling. Beckham is believed to be seeking a multiyear commitment.

Sam Darnold To Remain Panthers’ Starter In Week 14

Sam Darnold made his season debut during yesterday’s win over the Broncos, serving as the third different option under center for the Panthers in 2022. His tenure back in the No. 1 role will not be a one-off, however.

Interim head coach Steve Wilks said on Sunday that Darnold will get the nod once again in Week 14 when Carolina plays Seattle following their bye. The announcement comes after Wilks had indicated his intention to have him see game action in 2022, which was confirmed with the Week 12 start. The team’s No. 1 option for most of last season, Darnold was long seen as a replacement candidate this past offseason.

To little surprise, the team brought in Baker Mayfield from the Browns through a trade the team had been eyeing well before it was consummated in July. It was the former No. 1 overall pick who won out Carolina’s training camp competition, but he struggled mightily before going down with a high ankle sprain. With Darnold having suffered the same injury in the preseason and being unavailable, Carolina turned to P.J. Walker as their starter for a stretch.

Mayfield was thrust back into the No. 1 role during Week 11, a 13-3 loss to the Ravens during which he threw a pair of late interceptions. Darnold’s return to health allowed him to guide the team’s offense yesterday, though, and help lead them to a 23-10 win. The USC product competed just 11 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown, but generated a passer rating of 103.8 and will have the opportunity to build on that performance this week.

With both Darnold and fellow 2018 draftee Mayfield pending free agents, the closing weeks of the season will be highly important for both of them from a financial perspective. Solid performances from the former could help erase the struggles of the past in Charlotte (and help earn him at least consideration for a deal to compete with injured rookie Matt Corral for a 2023 roster spot), which could also have an effect on the sidelines. With Wilks reportedly making a case to remain the team’s permanent HC, plenty will be at stake as the calendar flips to December despite the Panthers’ 4-8 record.

Coaching Rumors: Colts, Broncos, Reich

Jeff Saturday is now overseeing a staff full of Frank Reich assistants, but the surprising Colts HC hire is not currently looking to add any new personnel to his staff for this audition. Rumors of Jim Irsay‘s Saturday hire frustrating current Colts staffers surfaced last week, and while Saturday bucking the recent trend by seeing his interim tag turn into a full-time post would likely mean a host of new assistants in 2023, Reich’s group will be the one in place for the rest of this season.

I like the group; I like the support they give each other. They’re in clearly defined roles,” Saturday said. “And I’m happy with where they are. Bringing somebody in, trying to learn an entire process or how we’ve done things? I like where the guys are, so I don’t anticipate that. I’m not guaranteeing it, but in my head I haven’t even had a chance to get that far. I’m just trying to get Week 2 under my belt.”

Saturday stopping short of shutting down the prospect of outside staffers coming in is interesting, but considering how off the board his hire was, it would not surprise to see the new Colts HC consider bringing in some staffers while he is in charge. Here is the latest from the coaching scene:

  • Scott Milanovich confirmed recent reports he turned down an opportunity to be the Colts’ play-caller. The veteran assistant, who is in his second season as Indianapolis’ quarterbacks coach, said (via The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, on Twitter) “Ultimately, it just wasn’t the right situation, I don’t think, for me at the time and the and the team.” Milanovich called plays in the CFL and as an interim OC with the Jaguars four years ago. Both he and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery are set to be involved with game-planning going forward, but assistant QBs coach Parks Frazier will be the voice in Matt Ryan‘s helmet going forward.
  • The OC Milanovich succeeded in Jacksonville in 2018, Nathaniel Hackett continues to oversee a disappointing Broncos season. After picking up a win in London, Denver reverted to its pattern of sluggish second halves in Tennessee. Although injuries have steadily depleted Hackett’s offense, the unit is averaging a league-low 14.6 points per game and also struggled when more of its starters were healthy. Some of George Paton‘s peers are advocating for the second-year GM to be proactive with this coaching situation, per Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post, to better ensure he will stay on the job. Hackett hit the one-and-done radar stunningly early, but Paton’s status has not come up as much. Like Hackett, Paton was hired before the team’s new ownership arrived. While Paton has fared well in key aspects since taking the job in 2021, the Hackett-Russell Wilson partnership not working out has undoubtedly affected his perception.
  • Nick Sirianni spent three seasons as the Colts’ OC and worked with Frank Reich with the Chargers as well. The current Eagles HC did not shoot down the idea of Reich joining Philly’s staff, likely in a consultant-type role, via EJ Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer. This would not only make sense for Sirianni, but Reich had a rather notable Eagles stay previously, being the OC on staff during the Birds’ Super Bowl LII-winning campaign.
  • Former Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon pleaded guilty to a domestic battery charge stemming from a May incident, according to ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, who adds the longtime NFL staffer received a suspended one-year prison sentence. An Indiana judge instead gave Saxon, 56, one year of probation. The Cardinals placed Saxon on administrative leave in August; he resigned from the team last month. Saxon, who was on Kliff Kingsbury‘s staff since 2019, spent 23 years as an NFL assistant.

Latest On Saints’ QB Situation

The Saints had recently entertained the notion of making a quarterback change for the second time this season, but that move will be delayed for at least one more week. Head coach Dennis Allen confirmed on Wednesday that Andy Dalton will remain the team’s starter in Week 11.

The veteran has been in place as New Orleans’ No. 1 since Week 4, when he stepped in for an injured Jameis Winston. The latter entered the season fully recovered from his 2021 ACL tear and with a two-year deal in hand to continue where he left off last season. Back and ankle injuries have limited his availability during this campaign, however, and he struggled during his three starts.

Dalton remained atop the depth chart even after Winston was healthy enough to dress, given the team’s relative offensive success. Last month, Allen indicated that Dalton could take on the starter’s role on a full-time basis depending on his performance and Winston’s availability to recover. The 35-year-old’s first five starts saw the Saints put up no fewer than 24 points in each contest, quelling any potential controversy at the position.

In the two games which have followed, New Orleans has scored 23 total points in losses to the Ravens and Steelers. Allen endorsed Dalton in the former case, stating that he gave no consideration to a midgame QB change against Baltimore. Days ago, though, the door seemed to open to a Winston return as the Saints remain in search of a catalyst for their banged-up offense.

“[W]e haven’t been doing as well the last couple weeks,” Allen said earlier this week, via ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, on the subject of a potential quarterback swap. “So, I think we’ve gotta evaluate that. I think that’s something that we need to look at.”

Allen said today (via Terrell, on Twitter) that Winston is still not 100% healthy. More worryingly, he added that it remains unclear if the former No. 1 pick will reach full health any time soon. For at least one more game, then, it will be Dalton under center as New Orleans hosts the Rams on Sunday as a pair of struggling teams aim for their fourth win of the season.