PHOENIX -- With NFL owners, club executives, and coaches gathering for their annual meeting, which began Sunday at the posh Arizona Biltmore, here are some of the primary topics of discussion in the next four days:
*The Oakland Raiders' planned move to Las Vegas. Everything points to this happening, but the league's 32 owners still must give their approval in a vote that could take place as soon as Monday. Twenty-four yes votes are required to allow the Raiders to move, and the windfall of cash that it will generate for the NFL is likely to get the majority on board.
Some owners will be opposed largely because of concerns over placing an NFL franchise in the gambling capital of the world. The league has long frowned on having overt connections to gambling, even though it has long been a dominant factor in its popularity. Making players, coaches, and team officials neighbors with the people who set the betting lines is a bad look, but does it really mean anything more than that?
*Expanding the use of instant replay. There are a variety of proposals, including one jointly submitted by the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, to allow for more plays to be challenged. The Bills-Seahawks proposal wants all officiating decisions (other than on scoring plays and turnovers, but including those where no call is made) to be subjected to a coach's tossing of his red flag.
Another proposal, submitted by the Washington Redskins, has teams receiving unlimited challenges if they are proven correct on their first two. Currently, getting two challenges right earns a third and final challenge.
*Speeding up the pace of games. Both proposed replay concepts seem to fly in the face of the NFL's desire to speed up games, something it is looking to address with, among other things, the reduction of overtime from 15 to 10 minutes. The league is strongly considering that idea even though it would increase the possibility of dreaded ties.
In light of declining television ratings, there will be plenty of talk about how the game is presented on TV, with a reduction in commercial breaks and the possibility of incorporating split screens to show commercials while maintaining game coverage.
*More freedom for wide receivers to make plays. Although plenty of points (an average of 45.55 per game) and yards (an average of 700 per game) were produced in 2016, the NFL wants to find ways to boost those numbers. One way, per a proposal, is to expand the defenseless-receiver penalty enforcement to routes rather than just at the moment a receiver is going for the ball.