Rule changes tend to be a topic that draws a lot of attention around the NFL every offseason, and it’s attention that is almost negative and geared specifically toward particular rules that seek to change the game in a notable way. Most often these are rules that ostensibly designed to make the game safer.
The bulk of the attention leading up to the Annual League Meeting this year surrounded the much-hyped revision of the catch rule, something that has literally been talked about for years and which finally came to a head last season in some high-profile incidents involving the New England Patriots.
But the attention actually shifted away from that at the Meeting and onto another rule that was introduced somewhat covertly and not widely discussed prior to its late proposal and subsequent adoption. This rule seeks to ban helmet contact that uses the protective device as an offensive weapon.
Because of the immense amount of attention that these other rules have been given, many other more minor rules get overshadowed as a result that will have an impact on the game in some form or fashion, so I wanted to spend the next few days giving some attention to these other changes.
There is one bylaw that passed, for example, that was introduced by the Minnesota Vikings and which will benefit playoff teams in getting a head start for their next season. Previously, teams were unable to conduct future business until their seasons officially concluded, which means that they either lost a playoff game or won the Super Bowl.
Now, teams that are still active in the playoffs will be permitted to sign players to Reserve/Future contracts, which is a pretty big deal. Considering the fact that the 20 teams right off the bat have the opportunity to begin fleshing out their 90-man roster before you do, there is an obvious disadvantage in being forced to wait.
In other words, the removal of restrictions on playoff teams signing players to Reserve/Future contracts will give said teams a better opportunity to sign better players to such contracts, since one would naturally figure that the best Reserve/Future prospects will be among the first to come to terms on such deals.
This is a subject that I have spoken about before, but there are players who end up finding success in the league after having been added as Reserve/Future signings. Practice squad players are routinely re-signed in this way. Fullback Roosevelt Nix was a Reserve/Future signing a few years ago, as were other current contributors to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Among the notable players that the Steelers have signed to Reserve/Future contracts this offseason are a couple of those who spent the 2017 season on the practice squad, such as wide receiver Marcus Tucker and tight end Jake McGee.