Biggest Takeaways from 2023 NFL Owners’ Meetings

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson head coach John Harbaugh

The NFL’s annual league meetings wrapped up on Tuesday evening after three days at the Biltmore Resort in Phoenix. All owners, coaches, general managers and league executives were in attendance to discuss potential rule changes, the state of the league, media rights deals and health and safety, among other topics.

All 32 head coaches spoke to the media, and several general managers and owners made themselves available between meetings. 

After getting to spend a few days in Arizona, here’s a look at some of the buzz and what caught most people’s attention:

NFL Owners’ Meeting Takeaways

Lamar Jackson Saga Spills Over

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh had his media session scheduled for 7:45 a.m. local time on Monday. As soon as he sat down at his table, quarterback Lamar Jackson tweeted that he had requested a trade from the team on March 2. It was clearly a calculated move, but Harbaugh, for the most part, did a good job of controlling the situation.

“I haven’t seen the tweet. It’s an ongoing process,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know what direction it’s going to go. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t tell the future. But I know whatever happens is going to be good. It’s going to be OK. I have my hopes. I love Lamar Jackson.”

The Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson on March 7 – five days after Jackson said he made his trade request – and that allowed him to negotiate with other teams and bring an offer sheet back to Baltimore. No team has stepped forward to speak with Jackson, and it’s difficult to find a team that would make sense considering all the factors. 

Jackson’s tweet was the first time he had given his side of the story, which is something many around the league wanted. There’s no agent in the picture, which makes it virtually impossible to know exactly what’s going on. One team executive predicted that after the draft is when things could get interesting. 

>> READ: Lamar Jackson: Durability Concerns ‘Unfair’

“If you’re the Colts at No. 4, for example, and you don’t love the quarterbacks when it’s your turn to select, they could go out and pick the best non-quarterback on their board,” the executive said. “They could let the entire draft play out and then circle back to Baltimore when the picks they could trade are now all future picks. They don’t have to trade No. 4 in that scenario, and if they think Lamar is going to continue to be the player we all know, their pick next year should end up near the back end of the first round. There are many factors to all this and it’s easier said than done. But that could be the approach a team could take here.”

OBJ Makes an Appearance

Free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who lives in Arizona, showed up at the Biltmore on Tuesday and walked around the lobby with his agent, Zeke Sandhu. Beckham is believed to be fully healthy from the ACL injury he suffered in Super Bowl LVI and has spoken to several teams about a potential deal. The New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs are believed to be the strongest suitors he has, but it remains unclear when he’ll make a decision. 

Is Trey Lance on Trading Block?

Trey Lance was included in our write-up last week of under-the-radar players who could get traded. San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch spoke to reporters on Monday, and for the first time left open that possibility.

“We like Trey on our team right now,” Lynch said. “We always joke, Kyle [Shanahan] and I, we’d trade each other if someone gave us a good enough deal. So we listen to everything, but we like Trey on our team, and we are very excited about the way he is progressing about his opportunity.”

Lynch also said Brock Purdy is the “leader in the clubhouse” to be the team’s starting quarterback once he’s healthy. The Sam Darnold signing in free agency raised some eyebrows around the league, and people wondered what it might mean for Lance.

Some don’t believe Darnold signed with San Francisco to be the third quarterback on the roster, and Shanahan noted Darnold would share first-team reps with Lance at OTAs. This situation is one to monitor. 

Rodgers Trade Could Happen Soon

The Jets’ and Green Bay Packers‘ decision-makers were a little more open about the Aaron Rodgers situation than expected. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst admitted getting a first-round pick is “not a necessity,” while Jets GM Joe Douglas said pursuing other quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson) would be “disingenuous” and “negotiating in bad faith.”

There is a belief both sides have made some progress, and it would not be a surprise if they reached an agreement soon. The conditions on the draft picks in future years have been one of the more complicated matters, but everyone involved wants Rodgers to be a Jet, and things are slowly getting there.

>> READ: Rodgers’ Non-Committal to 2024 Holding Up Trade

Flex Scheduling TNF

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been the biggest proponent of flex scheduling with Thursday Night Football. The league wants the ability to move late-season games from Sunday to Thursday, with a 15-day advance notice, to assure better matchups for Amazon, which is paying $1.2 billion per season. The discussion among owners lasted more than an hour and a half, per sources. Talks were tabled until the May meetings after there weren’t enough votes to pass.

“Listen, there isn’t anybody in that room, any of our organizations who don’t put our fans first,” Roger Goodell said in his press conference. “Obviously, providing the best matchups for our fans is part of what we do. That’s part of what I think our scheduling has always focused on and flex has been a part of that. … I don’t think we are putting Amazon over our players. I think the data is very clear. It doesn’t show a higher injury rate. But we recognize shorter weeks.

“We went through this with Covid, too. I hear from a lot of players directly, too. They love the 10 days afterward. In fact, they call it a mini-bye, so there are benefits to that. You have different views. We want to consider all of them. Players have their views. Coaches have their views. We have to try to balance all of that.”

Players including Patrick Mahomes expressed their frustrations with the possibility, and New York Giants owner John Mara publicly bashed the proposal.

“Flexible scheduling, as it is, is really inconsiderate to our season ticket-holders and to people who fill our stadiums every week,” Mara said. “People have gotten used to going from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night. That doesn’t mean that they like it. This year we can be flexed into Monday night, which I think is really inconsiderate to our ticket-holders. But to flex a game back to Thursday night to me is abusive, and I am adamantly opposed to it.”

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported that 22 owners were going to vote “yes” to the proposal. That means the league needs two more owners to get to the 24 for the proposal to pass. Goodell will have the next two months to convince at least two owners. And whether you like it or not, it seems like the league is going to eventually get what it wants. 

Other Takeaways

  • The NFL roster cutdowns all will happen after the final preseason game, meaning teams will have to trim rosters from 90 to 53 all at once. Twenty-five teams were in favor of that proposal. 
  • Joe Mixon’s future with the Cincinnati Bengals remains up in the air. “Right now, he’s on the team and we are gonna count on him until that wouldn’t be the case,” Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn said. Cincinnati would save more than $7 million in cap space if it were to cut Mixon.
  • Dan Snyder’s wife, Tanya, attended the meetings but did not speak during the privilege session. Bids are coming in for the Washington Commanders franchise, and ESPN reported a purchase agreement could be in place before the draft.
  • NFL owners tabled the Philadelphia Eagles’ proposal to create a fourth-and-20 alternative to the onside kick. The proposal has had growing support over the years, and discussions will continue in May.
  • The NFL will mandate offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends, running backs and linebackers to wear Guardian protective caps for in-season practices as well. Previously, it was just for the beginning of training camp until the second preseason game. The goal is to reduce avoidable head contact.
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