2016 NFL season

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This article is about the American football season in the United States. For the Gaelic football season in Ireland, see 2016 National Football League (Ireland).
2016 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 8, 2016 (2016-09-08)–January 1, 2017 (2017-01-01)
Playoffs
Start date January 7, 2017
Super Bowl LI
Date February 5, 2017
Site NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Pro Bowl
Date January 29, 2017
Site Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

The 2016 NFL season, the 97th season in the history of the National Football League (NFL), is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 8, 2016, with the annual kickoff game featuring the defending Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos hosting the Carolina Panthers. The season will conclude with Super Bowl LI, the league's championship game, on Sunday, February 5, 2017, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

For the first time since the Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee in 1997,[note 1] an NFL team relocated from one state to another, as the former St. Louis Rams moved out of St. Louis, Missouri and returned to Los Angeles, its home from 1946 to 1994.[1][2]

Player movements and retirements[edit]

The 2016 NFL league year began on March 9, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. ET. On March 7 clubs started to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who became unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2015 contracts two days later. On March 9, clubs exercised options for 2016 on players who have option clauses in their 2015 contracts, submitted qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom desire to retain a Right of Refusal/Compensation, submitted a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2015 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued season of free agent credit, and teams were required to be under the salary cap, using the "Top-51" definition (in which the 51 highest-paid players on the team's payroll must have a collective salary cap hit below the actual cap). All 2015 players contracts expired and trading period for 2016 begin.

Free agency[edit]

A total of 496 players were eligible for some form of free agency at the beginning of the free agency period.[3] In addition, a number of highly paid players were released after the start of the league year to allow their teams to regain space under the salary cap. Among the high profile players who changed teams via free agency were cornerbacks Josh Norman (from Panthers to Redskins), Janoris Jenkins (from Rams to Giants), Prince Amukamara (from Giants to Jaguars), Sean Smith (from Chiefs to Raiders) and Casey Hayward (from Packers to Chargers); safeties Eric Weddle (from Chargers to Ravens), Rodney McLeod (from Rams to Eagles) and Tashaun Gipson (from Browns to Jaguars); defensive ends Malik Jackson (from Broncos to Jaguars) and Olivier Vernon (from Dolphins to Giants); defensive tackles Damon Harrison (from Jets to Giants) and Brandon Mebane (from Seahawks to Chargers); linebackers Danny Trevathan (from Broncos to Bears), Demario Davis (from Jets to Browns) and Bruce Irvin (from Seahawks to Raiders); offensive tackles Mitchell Schwartz (from Browns to Chiefs), Donald Stephenson (from Chiefs to Broncos), Bobby Massie (from Cardinals to Bears) and Russell Okung (from Seahawks to Broncos); guards Kelechi Osemele (from Ravens to Raiders), J. R. Sweezy (from Seahawks to Buccaneers) and Alex Boone (from 49ers to Vikings); center Alex Mack (from Browns to Falcons); tight ends Benjamin Watson (from Saints to Ravens) and Coby Fleener (from Colts to Saints); wide receivers Rishard Matthews (from Dolphins to Titans) Travis Benjamin (from Browns to Chargers), Marvin Jones (from Bengals to Lions) and Mohamed Sanu (from Bengals to Falcons); running backs Lamar Miller (from Dolphins to Texans), Matt Forte (from Bears to Jets), Alfred Morris (from Redskins to Cowboys), and Chris Ivory (from Jets to Jaguars); and quarterbacks Brock Osweiler (from Broncos to Texans) and Robert Griffin III (from Redskins to Browns).[4][5]

Trades[edit]

Draft[edit]

For more details on this topic, see 2016 NFL Draft.

The 2016 NFL Draft was held between April 28 − April 30, 2016 in Chicago. By way of a trade with the Tennessee Titans, the Los Angeles Rams held the first overall pick and selected QB Jared Goff.

Notable retirements[edit]

  • Oakland Raiders' defensive back Charles Woodson announced he would retire from professional football at the end of the 2015 season on December 21, 2015. He played eighteen seasons, starting with the Oakland Raiders for eight seasons and after spending seven with the Green Bay Packers, he returned to the Raiders for his final three seasons. He was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the 2009 season and is tied with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for most career defensive touchdowns with 13.
  • Seattle Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement from professional football on February 7, 2016. Lynch played nine seasons, four with the Buffalo Bills and the final five with the Seahawks. Lynch was a five-time Pro Bowler, led the league in rushing touchdowns two seasons (2013–2014), co-led in total touchdowns one season (2014), and won a championship title with the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
  • Carolina Panthers' defensive end Jared Allen announced his retirement from professional football on February 18, 2016. Allen played twelve seasons, his first four with the Kansas City Chiefs, then six with the Minnesota Vikings, and spent his last two seasons with the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. A five-time Pro Bowl and four-time All-Pro selection, Allen tallied 136 quarterback sacks during his career. In 2011, Allen had 22 sacks but fell .5 sacks short of the single season NFL record held by former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.
  • Denver Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning announced his retirement from professional football on March 7, 2016, exactly one month after the Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Manning played in the NFL for seventeen seasons — the first thirteen with the Indianapolis Colts (1998–2010), before missing the entire 2011 season due to recovery from neck surgery, then played the last four seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos (2012–2015). Manning appeared in four Super Bowls (two with Indianapolis, two with Denver) and won one with each team — Super Bowl XLI and Super Bowl 50.
  • Detroit Lions' wide receiver Calvin Johnson announced his retirement from professional football, one day after Manning on March 8, 2016. Johnson played his entire nine-year career with the Lions, including six Pro Bowl selections and three First Team All-Pro selections. He also set a single-season record for receiving yards in 2012 with 1,964.
  • Carolina Panthers' cornerback Charles Tillman announced his retirement from professional football on July 18, 2016. Tillman, nicknamed "Peanut", spent the first twelve years of his NFL career with the Chicago Bears (2003–2014), before signing with the Panthers in 2015. Tillman was a two-time Pro Bowler, and forced 42 fumbles during his first twelve seasons, the most of any defensive back since the statistic was first recorded in 1984.
  • Miami Dolphins' wide receiver Greg Jennings announced his retirement from professional football on July 25, 2016. Jennings spent his first seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers and was a member of their 2010 championship team that won Super Bowl XLV. He then spent his remaining three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins respectively. Jennings was a two-time Pro Bowler.

Preseason[edit]

Training camps for the 2016 season will be held in late July through August. Teams may start training camp no earlier than 15 days before the team's first scheduled preseason game.

Prior to the start of the regular season, each team will play four preseason exhibition games (barring any further cancellations), which began Thursday, August 11 with a slate of seven locally televised games. The preseason schedule was originally to begin with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on the evening of Sunday, August 7, featuring the Green Bay Packers vs. the Indianapolis Colts, but the game was canceled due to uncertainty over the safety of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium's newly installed artificial turf.[13] As in previous years, the canceled game would have featured teams with prominent alumni being inducted: Brett Favre for the Packers, and Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy for the Colts.

The 64-game preseason schedule will wrap up on Thursday, September 1, one week before the start of the regular season.[14]

Regular season[edit]

The 2016 regular season will feature 256 games to be played out over a seventeen-week schedule which begins on Thursday, September 8, 2016. Each of the league's 32 teams will play a 16-game schedule, with one bye week for each team scheduled between weeks four and eleven. The slate will also feature games on Monday night. There will be games played on Thursday, including the National Football League Kickoff game in prime time on September 8 and games on Thanksgiving Day. The regular season concludes with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, January 1, 2017, all of which are will be intra-divisional matchups, as it has been since 2010.

Scheduling formula

Under the NFL's current scheduling formula, each team plays each of the other three teams in their own division twice. In addition, a team plays against all four teams in one other division from each conference. The final two games on a team's schedule are against the two teams in the team's own conference in the divisions the team was not set to play who finished the previous season in the same rank in their division (e.g. the team which finished first in its division the previous season would play each other team in their conference that also finished first in its respective division). The pre-set division pairings for 2016 will be as follows:

   Intra-conference
AFC North vs. AFC East
AFC South vs. AFC West
NFC North vs. NFC East
NFC South vs. NFC West

   Inter-conference
AFC East vs. NFC West
AFC North vs. NFC East
AFC South vs. NFC North
AFC West vs. NFC South

Highlights of the 2016 schedule include:

The complete 2016 schedule was released Thursday, April 14, 2016.

Postseason[edit]

The 2016 playoffs will begin with the Wild Card playoff round on Saturday, January 7 and Sunday, January 8, 2017. The winner of each of the games will visit the top two seeded teams in each conference. The Divisional round games will then be played on the weekend of Saturday, January 14 and Sunday, January 15. The Conference championships will be held on Sunday, January 22 with NFC Championship Game at 3:05 p.m. EST on Fox and the AFC Championship Game at 6:40 p.m. EST on CBS.

The 2017 Pro Bowl will be held on Sunday, January 29, 2017. It will be televised nationally on ESPN and, according to reports, will be held at the recently renovated Camping World Stadium (the former Citrus Bowl stadium) in Orlando, Florida.[17]

Super Bowl LI will be held on Sunday, February 5, 2017. The game will decide the 2016 NFL Champion and will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston. It will be televised nationally by Fox.

Notable events[edit]

On April 25, 2016, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension for the 2016 regular season related to Deflategate; Brady dropped his appeal shortly thereafter and declined to take his case to the Supreme Court.[18][19]

2016 deaths[edit]

The following people associated with the NFL (or AFL) have died in 2016.[20]

Buddy Ryan[edit]

Buddy Ryan

James "Buddy" Ryan died June 28. Ryan, a head coach and defensive coordinator who served with six NFL teams over the course of his career, was credited with inventing the 46 defense. His contributions to the game were considered crucial to helping the New York Jets secure an upset win in Super Bowl III and played a key role in the Chicago Bears' rout in Super Bowl XX. His sons, Rex and Rob, are both coaches with the Buffalo Bills (a team the elder Ryan turned down a coaching offer from in the early years of his career). Ryan was 85.[21][22]

Other notable deaths[edit]

Julius Adams, Caesar Belser, John Binotto, Fred Bruney, Rudy Bukich, Patrick Cain, David Douglas, Ken Gorgal, Dennis Green, Ross Gwinn, Bob Harrison, Joe Hergert, Gary Jeter, Paul Jetton, Curley Johnson, Ted Karras, Ellison Kelley, Johnny Lattner, Jacky Lee, Ted Marchibroda, Andy Maurer, Mike McCoy, Lou Michaels, Rob Monaco, Bill Perkins, Lawrence Phillips, Chuck Pitcock, Willie Richardson, Bill Robinson, Joe Roehlk, Leo Rucka, Will Smith, Terry Stoepel, Steve Thompson, Zurlon Tipton, Kevin Turner, Bill Wade, Tray Walker, Elmer Wingate, Al Wistert, John Wittenborn.

Rule changes[edit]

The following rule changes were approved for the 2016 NFL season at the owner's meeting on March 22, 2016:[23]

  • Allowing the offensive and defensive play callers on the coaching staffs to use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches' booth.
  • Permanently adopting the extra-point rules enacted in the 2015 NFL season. Extra point kicks will be from the 15 yard line, and defenses can return blocked PAT's, fumbles or interceptions on two-point tries for a two-point defensive conversion.
  • Outlaw all chop blocks anywhere on the field. Previously, the chop block was legal when an offensive lineman chops a defensive player "while the defensive player is physically engaged above the waist by the blocking attempt of another offensive teammate".
  • Expand the definition of a "horse-collar tackle" to include tackles where a player is grabbed by the jersey at or above the name plate and dragged to the ground.
  • Making the act of calling time-out when not permitted to do so subject to a delay-of-game penalty (5 yards).
  • Changing from a five-yard penalty to a loss of down when a receiver goes out of bounds and comes back in to illegally touch a forward pass.
  • Eliminating multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul committed after a change of possession.

The following changes were approved for only the 2016 NFL season at the owner's meeting on March 23, 2016 (they are both subject to become permanent rules or scrapped in the 2017 NFL season):

  • Moving the touchback spot after kickoffs and other free kicks to the 25-yard line, similar to the NCAA rule adopted in the 2012 season (a touchback after a turnover or punt will still be placed on the 20-yard line). The goal for this rule change is to decrease the number of kickoff returns: kick returners may be more reluctant to bring the ball out from the end zone because of the greater risk of being tackled before reaching the 25-yard line. NFL officials concede that this may in fact increase kickoff returns because kickers may instead attempt to pin returners inside the 10-yard line.[24]
  • Players committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game will be automatically ejected from the game. This was in response to New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. committing three personal fouls in one game against the Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman without being ejected. This change is being referred to as the "Odell Beckham Rule". NFL officials, however, concede that this new rule would not have ejected Beckham since he committed personal fouls and not unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.[25]

The following changes to instant replay rules were approved for the 2016 NFL season at the owner's meeting on May 24, 2016:[26]

  • Refining what is a reviewable play, including the following:
    • Plays involving possession.
    • Plays involving touching of either the ball or the ground.
    • Plays governed by the goal line.
    • Plays governed by the boundary lines.
    • Plays governed by the line of scrimmage.
    • Plays governed by the line to gain (1st down).
    • Number of players on the field at the snap.
    • Game administration (which includes correct application of the playing rules, proper down, spot of the foul for penalty application, and game clock status (running clock, not running clock, end of period)

Additional rule updates made for the 2016 season include:

  • Banning players from wearing hoodies under their uniform shirts. This was adopted in response to Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones using that style in the 2015 season, which hid his name plate under the hood.[27]
  • Banning any coaches except for the head coach from entering the field of play, and then only to check on an injured player. This was in response to the incident involving Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter and several Cincinnati Bengals players, especially Adam Jones, during the 2015–16 NFL playoffs.[27]
  • If the coin does not flip (as it did during the 2015–16 NFL Playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals), during the pre-game or pre-OT toss, the Referee can re-toss the coin using the captain's original call.
  • Practice squads can now have up to four players with two seasons of experience, an increase from the two players allowed the previous two years.[28]
  • Injury reports will no longer include the "probable" designation. The league had discouraged using the designation for anything beyond minor injuries after 2005 (in a game in which Michael Vick, listed as probable on the injury report, was also listed as inactive), to the point where almost all of the players who were being listed as probable ultimately played. The "questionable" category will now be broadened to include any injury that could possibly prevent a player from entering the game, while the "doubtful" category will likewise be generalized to include any player who is more likely to not play than play. Prior to 2016, each designation represented the approximate odds of the player seeing any playing time: 75 percent for probable, 50 percent for quesitonable and 25 percent for doubtful.[29]

Head coach/front office personnel changes[edit]

Head coach[edit]

Offseason[edit]

Team 2015 Head Coach 2015 Interim 2016 Replacement Reason for Leaving Notes
Cleveland Browns Mike Pettine Hue Jackson Fired Pettine compiled a record of 10–22 (.313) in two years with the Browns, finishing in last place in the AFC North both years. After putting up a promising record of 7-9 the season before, the team, marred by the actions of Johnny Manziel off the field, regressed heavily, forcing the Browns to hire their 5th head coach in the last 8 seasons. The decision to fire Pettine came the day before the end of the regular season.[30]

On January 13, the Browns hired Jackson as their head coach. Jackson spent most the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.[31]

Miami Dolphins Joe Philbin Dan Campbell Adam Gase Philbin compiled a record of 24–28 (.462), with no playoff appearances, in 3¼ seasons as head coach of the Dolphins. The Dolphins were expected to be contenders for a playoff position in 2015 but grossly underachieved, starting the season 1–3, which led to Philbin's firing. Philbin joined the Indianapolis Colts as offensive line coach for 2016. Campbell, the team's tight ends coach, took over for the rest of the season; following the season, he joined the New Orleans Saints as tight ends coach.[32]

On January 9, the Dolphins hired Gase as their head coach. Gase spent the past season as the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears; at age 37, Gase becomes the youngest active head coach in the NFL.[33]

Philadelphia Eagles Chip Kelly Pat Shurmur Doug Pederson Kelly was released on December 29, 2015, one week prior to the end of the regular season, following the Eagles being eliminated from playoff contention. He finished with a record of 26–21 (.553) and one playoff appearance (a single loss in 2013) over almost three seasons. Heading into 2015, Kelly made several controversial roster moves as general manager that didn't pan out, leading to his firing. Offensive Coordinator (and former Cleveland Browns head coach) Pat Shurmur served as interim replacement for week 17.[34] Shurmur finished 1-0 as the Eagles head coach, and was a frontrunner in the Eagles head coaching race along with Tom Coughlin and Doug Pederson; following the season, he joined the Minnesota Vikings as tight ends coach.

On January 18, the Eagles hired Pederson as their head coach. Pederson had spent the previous three season as offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, and was also a former QB for the Eagles.[35]

San Francisco 49ers Jim Tomsula Chip Kelly Tomsula compiled a record of 5–11 (.313) in his lone full season as head coach of the 49ers.[36]

On January 14, the 49ers hired Kelly as their head coach. Kelly had spent the previous three seasons as head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.[37]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lovie Smith Dirk Koetter Smith compiled a record of 8–24 (.250), with no playoff appearances, in two years with the Buccaneers, finishing in last place in the NFC South both years.[38] Smith moved to the college ranks, becoming the head coach of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini football team.

On January 14, Koetter was promoted to head coach after serving as offensive coordinator with the team since 2015.[39]

Tennessee Titans Ken Whisenhunt Mike Mularkey Whisenhunt compiled a record of 3–20 (.130), with no playoff appearances, in 1½ seasons as head coach of the Titans. After an impressive opening day win, the Titans lost six straight, resulting in Whisenhunt's dismissal. Mularkey, the team's tight ends coach, took over as interim head coach. Mularkey's previous head coaching experience includes two seasons with the Buffalo Bills (2004–05) and one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2012).[40] For 2016, Whisenhunt joined the San Diego Chargers as offensive coordinator.

On January 16, Mularkey shed the interim tag and was hired as the full-time head coach.[41]

New York Giants Tom Coughlin Ben McAdoo Resigned Coughlin compiled a record of 102–90 (.531) in 12 years with the Giants, a tenure that included three division titles, five playoff appearances (with a collective record of 8–3 in those games), and two Super Bowl wins (Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI). Since winning Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants had missed the playoffs every year and had accrued three consecutive losing seasons immediately prior to Coughlin's resignation.[42] On January 14, McAdoo was promoted to head coach after serving as offensive coordinator with the team since 2014.[43]

Front office[edit]

Offseason[edit]

Team Position 2015 Office Holder 2015 Interim 2016 Replacement Reason for Leaving Notes
Cleveland Browns GM Ray Farmer Sashi Brown Fired The Browns released Ray Farmer after the final game of the 2015 regular season. He had been with the team for three seasons, two as general manager.[30]

As of April 2016, the Browns have not named a general manager; the duties are being filled in the interim by executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, an attorney by trade who has served in the Browns front office since 2013.

Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew Sheldon White Bob Quinn After starting the season 1–6, the Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. One week later, after another loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, owner Martha Firestone Ford fired Mayhew and Lewand.[44]

On January 8, the Lions hired Quinn as their GM. Quinn had spent the previous 16 seasons in various positions in the front office of the New England Patriots.[45]

Team President Tom Lewand Rod Wood
Miami Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey Chris Grier The Dolphin fired GM Hickey, who spent the past two years with the team.[46] Grier, Dolphins' director of college scouting, appointed as the new GM on January 5, 2016.[47]
Philadelphia Eagles VP- Player Personnel Ed Marynowitz Tom Donahoe Vice President of Player Personnel Ed Marynowitz was fired alongside head coach Chip Kelly on December 29, 2015. Donahoe last served as president and general manager of the Buffalo Bills from 2001 to 2005 but has largely been out of football in the ten years since his firing from that position.[34]
GM (de facto) Chip Kelly Howie Roseman Roseman, who carried the title of "executive vice president of football operations" while Kelly handled general manager duties in 2015, reverted to his previous general manager duties after Kelly's firing.[34]
Tennessee Titans GM Ruston Webster Jon Robinson The Titans released Webster the Monday following their final game of the 2015 regular season. Webster had spent the past four seasons with the team.[48]

On January 14, the Titans hired Robinson as GM. Robinson spent the previous three seasons as Director of Player Personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[49]

Stadiums[edit]

Atlanta Falcons[edit]

The Atlanta Falcons will play their 25th and final season at the Georgia Dome, with the team's new home field, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, slated to open in 2017.[50]

Minnesota Vikings[edit]

The Minnesota Vikings will play at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Construction on the team's new home field in downtown Minneapolis is scheduled to wrap up by the start of the 2016 season. The new stadium is being built on the site of the Vikings' former home, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was demolished after the 2013 season.[51] In August 2015, a construction worker who was working on the new stadium died in a fall from the structure's roof.[51]

Relocation of the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles[edit]

The league scheduled a vote on whether to relocate one or two of its existing franchises to the Los Angeles metropolitan area on January 12, 2016. The league set a relocation fee of $550 million for any team who is approved to relocate.[52] On January 4, three teams filed to relocate to Los Angeles: the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and the St. Louis Rams, all three of which had previously resided in the city at various points in their history.[53] Despite the Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities recommending the Raiders' and Chargers' joint proposal for a stadium in Carson, California, on January 12, the league approved the Rams' proposal to relocate to Inglewood after three ballots, also giving the Chargers the option to share the Rams' stadium if they so choose. In the first two rounds of voting, Inglewood led Carson 21–11 and 20–12 respectively; by the third ballot, the Rams proposal had received effectively unanimous support from the other owners, with the final vote reaching 30–2 (the Raiders and Chargers themselves casting the lone opposing votes).[54] The Rams will play the first three seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, while their new stadium is being built in Inglewood. The Rams previously played at the Coliseum during their first stint in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1979.

Rams bid for Los Angeles[edit]

The Rams and the St. Louis CVC (Convention & Visitors Commission) began negotiating deals to get the Rams' home stadium, The Dome at America's Center (then known as Edward Jones Dome), into the top 25 percent of stadiums in the league (i.e., top eight teams of the thirty-two NFL teams in reference to luxury boxes, amenities and overall fan experience). Under the terms of the lease agreement, the St. Louis CVC was required to make modifications to the Edward Jones Dome in 2005. However, then-owner, Georgia Frontiere, waived the provision in exchange for cash that served as a penalty for the city's noncompliance. The City of St. Louis, in subsequent years, made changes to the score board and increased the natural lighting by replacing panels with windows, although the overall feel remains dark. The minor renovations which totaled about $70 million did not bring the stadium within the specifications required under the lease agreement.

On February 1, 2013, a three-person arbitral tribunal selected to preside over the arbitration process found that the Edward Jones Dome was not in the top 25% of all NFL venues as required under the terms of the lease agreement between the Rams and the CVC. The tribunal further found that the estimated $700 million in proposed renovations by the Rams was not unreasonable given the terms of the lease agreement. Finally, the city of St. Louis was ordered to pay the Rams attorneys' fees which totaled a reported $2 million.

Publicly, city, county and state officials have expressed no interest in providing further funding to the Edward Jones Dome in light of those entities, as well as taxpayers, continuing to owe approximately $300 million more on that facility. As such, if a resolution is not reached by the end of the 2014–2015 NFL season and the City of St. Louis remains non-compliant in its obligations under the lease agreement, the Rams would be free to nullify their lease and relocate.

On January 31, 2014, both the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to the Forum in Inglewood, California. It would be, by the most conservative estimates, sufficient land on which a NFL-proper stadium may be constructed. The purchase price was rumored to have been between US$90–100 million. Commissioner Roger Goodell represented that Mr. Kroenke informed the league of the purchase. As an NFL owner, any purchase of land in which a potential stadium could be built must be disclosed to the league. This development has further fueled rumors that the Rams intend to return its management and football operations to Southern California. The land was initially targeted for a Walmart Supercenter but Walmart could not get the necessary permits to build the center. Kroenke is married to Ann Walton Kroenke who is a member of the Walton family and many of Kroenke's real estate deals have involved Walmart properties.[55][56][57] On January 5, 2015, The Los Angeles Times reported that Stan Kroenke and Stockbridge Capital Group are partnering up into developing a new NFL Stadium on property owned by Kroenke. The project will include a stadium of up to 80,000 seats and a performance venue of 6,000 seats while reconfiguring the previously approved Hollywood Park plan for up to 890,000 square feet of retail, 780,000 square feet of office space, 2,500 new residential units, a 300-room hotel and 25 acres of public parks, playgrounds, open space and pedestrian and bicycle access. The stadium is likely to be ready by 2019, In lieu of this the city of St. Louis responded on January 9, 2015, by unveiling an outdoor, open air, riverfront stadium that can accommodate the Rams and an MLS team with the hope that the NFL bylaws can force them to stay. On February 24, 2015, the Inglewood City Council approved the stadium and the initiative with construction on the stadium planned to begin in December 2015. On December 21, 2015, Construction was officially underway at the Hollywood Park site for the stadium. On January 4, 2016, after St. Louis finished last in per-game attendance for the 2015 season,[58] the team filed a relocation application to relocate to Los Angeles and informed the NFL about this and released a statement on their website.

On January 12, 2016, the NFL owners approved the Inglewood proposal and the Rams' relocation by a 30-2 vote; the Rams relocated almost immediately thereafter.[59]

Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers failed stadium bid[edit]

Main article: Carson Stadium

On February 19, 2015, the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers announced plans for a privately financed $1.7 billion stadium that the two teams would build in Carson, California if they were to move to the Los Angeles market.[60] Such a move would have marked a return to the nation's second-largest market for both teams; the Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 while the Chargers called LA home for their inaugural season in the American Football League. The Chargers were the only NFL team to play in Southern California at the time (until the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016), with San Diego being a 125-mile (201 km) distance from Los Angeles, and the Chargers counted Los Angeles as a secondary market. The Chargers have been looking to replace Qualcomm Stadium (which, like the Oakland Coliseum opened in the late 1960s) since at least 2003, and have had an annual out clause in which it can move in exchange for paying a fine to the city of San Diego for its remaining years on its lease. The Raiders, meanwhile, have been operating on year-to-year leases with Oakland Coliseum, the stadium it has shared with the Oakland Athletics for most of its time in Oakland, since the last long-term lease on that stadium ended in 2013.[61]

Due to both television contracts and NFL bylaws, had both of the longstanding division rivals moved to LA, one of the teams would have been required to move to the NFC West, something that Mark Davis volunteered the Raiders to be willing to do. The Raiders moving to the National Football Conference would have been considered ironic seeing that Davis's father Al Davis was a staunch opponent of the NFL during its rivalry and eventual merger with the AFL. If such a scenario happened, a current NFC West team would have taken their spot in the AFC West. The early rumor was that the Seattle Seahawks, who played in the AFC West from 1977 to 2001, would be the favorite to switch conferences with the Raiders. However, that team's growing rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers had pointed to either the Arizona Cardinals or the then-St. Louis Rams switching conferences to take the Raiders' spot in the AFC West. Had the Rams stayed in St. Louis, switching them to the AFC would have allowed for a yearly home-and-home with the cross-state Kansas City Chiefs.[62] As a portion of the Rams' 2016 schedule was already set because of their International Series appearance, the league could not realign until at least 2017.

On October 23, 2015, Mark Fabiani, Chargers spokesperson confirmed that the team planned to officially notify the NFL about its intentions to relocate to Los Angeles in January during the timetable when teams can request to relocate.[63] On January 4, 2016, both teams filed relocation applications for relocation to Los Angeles. On January 12, 2016, the NFL voted to allow the Rams move to Los Angeles and the Inglewood proposal, effectively rejecting and killing the Carson proposal. The Chargers have the option to join the Rams in Inglewood in 2016, with the Raiders having the option in 2017 if the Chargers decline; the Chargers announced on January 29 that they would remain in San Diego for the 2016 season as negotiations continue, but that if negotiations ultimately fail, that they had reached an agreement in principle with the Rams to join them in Los Angeles once the Inglewood stadium is complete.[64] The Raiders reached an agreement on another one-year lease extension with Oakland Coliseum on February 11, 2016, keeping the team in Oakland for one more season.

On August 25, 2016, the Raiders applied for a trademark for the "Las Vegas Raiders" and unveiled artist renditions of the proposed Las Vegas stadium, given the tentative title "Raiders Stadium."[65]

Naming rights agreements[edit]

Buffalo Bills[edit]

On August 13, news broke that the Buffalo Bills had reached an agreement to sell the naming rights to their stadium to the locally based New Era Cap Company, a major headwear supplier to all of the major North American sports leagues. The stadium had previously been known as Rich Stadium from its opening in 1973 to 1998, then as Ralph Wilson Stadium from then until the present day. The sale of naming rights came as somewhat of a surprise, as previous owner Ralph Wilson was firmly against selling the naming rights to the stadium and there were few companies in Western New York believed to have the money to pay the naming rights fee for an NFL stadium.[66]

Denver Broncos[edit]

The stadium where the Denver Broncos play their home games is in the process of receiving a new naming rights agreement. Sporting goods retailer Sports Authority, which had owned the naming rights to the field at New Mile High Stadium since 2011, filed for bankruptcy in March, and liquidated all of their stores.[67]

Miami Dolphins[edit]

Canadian-based financial services company Sun Life Financial has held the naming rights to the Miami Dolphins' stadium since 2010, a deal which expired in the off-season. The team already announced that it was not going to renew the license.[68] On August 16, 2016, it was reported that Hard Rock Cafe purchased the naming rights to the stadium, and the new name of the stadium would be Hard Rock Stadium.[69]

Oakland Raiders[edit]

On April 2, the O.co Coliseum, home of the Oakland Raiders and their Major League Baseball counterparts, the Oakland Athletics, reverted to its previous identity as the Oakland Alameda Coliseum. Online retailer Overstock.com held the naming rights to the Raiders' home field since 2011,[70] but opted out of the naming rights agreement, though it will continue to maintain its corporate sponsorship with the Athletics. The Raiders' home field has undergone numerous name changes in its history, including Network Associates Coliseum (1998–2004) and McAfee Coliseum (2004–2008).[71]

Field surface changes[edit]

Baltimore Ravens[edit]

On December 2, 2015, the Baltimore Ravens announced a change in the surface at M&T Bank Stadium from their previous Shaw Sportexe Momentum 51 artificial turf to natural Bermuda grass for the first time since the 2001 season, by player preference for a natural surface.[72] The field was replaced beginning on February 4, 2016, timed to be installed by the start of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse season.[73]

New uniforms and patches[edit]

After a trial run in 2015, the NFL Color Rush program returns for 2016 with all 32 NFL teams required to participate.[74] To prevent issues with color blindness from the previous season, the NFL is being careful to schedule match ups where color blindness will not be an issue. Most of the Color Rush games will be during the Thursday Night Football contests.[75]

While many rumors have leaked what the Color Rush uniforms will be, to date, only one team has confirmed their Color Rush uniform. The Pittsburgh Steelers—one of the league's more conservative and tradition-bound teams with regards to uniforms—will wear all-black uniforms with gold numbers on Christmas Day against the Baltimore Ravens.[76] The team had planned on wearing a Color Rush uniform for its only Thursday Night match up against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, but opted for the home game on Christmas against its hated rival and will wear their standard road uniforms against the Colts. The New York Jets will likely change their Color Rush outfits from 2015, as they face the Buffalo Bills for a second consecutive year and the previous year's uniforms received numerous complaints from those with color-blindness; the Bills are expected to keep their red Color Rush outfits.[77][78]

  • The San Francisco 49ers will be wearing a patch to commemorate their 70th season.[79]
  • The New Orleans Saints will be wearing a patch to commemorate their 50th season.[80]
  • The New York Giants will wear white pants instead of gray for their primary home jerseys.[81]
  • The Los Angeles Rams will now join the handful of teams (such as the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins) that primarily wear their white jerseys at home instead of their colored ones. The change comes as a nod to the team's Fearsome Foursome era and to accommodate the warmer, sunnier climate of Los Angeles. The uniform itself will remain the same as it was in the last years in St. Louis.[82]

Media[edit]

This will be the third season under broadcast contracts with ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC. This includes "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season (regardless of the conference of the visiting team). NBC will continue to air Sunday Night Football, the annual Kickoff game, and the primetime Thanksgiving game. ESPN will continue airing Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl. Fox will serve as the broadcaster of Super Bowl LI.

A change to the flexible scheduling rule takes effect for the 2016 season: in week 17, any game can be flexed into Sunday Night Football, regardless of how many times a team had been featured on a primetime game that season. This change can, theoretically, allow a game with playoff implications in the final week of the season to be moved to primetime for greater prominence.[83] As in 2015, the NFL will continue the "suspension" of its blackout policy, meaning that all games will be broadcast in their home markets regardless of ticket sales; Goodell stated that the league needed to continue investigating the impact of removing the blackout rules before such a change is made permanent.[84]

The league's contract with CBS for Thursday Night Football expired after the 2015 season and was placed back up for bids.[85] On February 1, 2016, the NFL announced that Thursday Night Football would be shared between CBS, NBC, and NFL Network for the 2016 season. CBS and NBC will each air five games, which will be simulcast by NFL Network, along with an additional eight games exclusively on NFL Network, the production of which will be split between the two networks. Commissioner Roger Goodell that the league was "thrilled to add NBC to the Thursday Night Football mix, a trusted partner with a proven track record of success broadcasting NFL football in primetime, and look forward to expanding with a digital partner for what will be a unique tri-cast on broadcast, cable and digital platforms."[86] On April 5, 2016, it was announced that Twitter had acquired non-exclusive worldwide digital streaming rights to the 10 broadcast television TNF games. This partnership will also include content for Twitter's live streaming service Periscope, such as behind-the-scenes access.[87]

After 2015's Bills–Jaguars International Series contest was a modest success, the league was initially expected to make all three of the 2016 London games exclusive to the Internet. Yahoo! Screen, which carried the 2015 contest, shut down in January 2016;[88] the bidders on the three games (which may or may not go to the same broadcaster) included YouTube and Apple TV, both of which bid on the 2015 game but were passed up in favor of Yahoo!'s bid.[89] Ultimately, the league decided not to make the International Series games Web-exclusive, instead focusing its efforts on the Thursday Night Football partnership with Twitter.[90]

Mike Tirico, the lead play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football, announced his departure from ESPN on May 9, 2016; he will join NBC, where he was originally designated to lead the network's broadcast team for Thursday Night Football telecasts. Replacing Tirico on MNF will be Sean McDonough.[91] The move was initially reported in April but not confirmed until the next month.[92] However, shortly before the start of the regular season, the league exercised a clause in its television contract with NBC demanding that any broadcast team that calls Sunday Night Football also call Thursday Night Football as well, effectively forcing Al Michaels to call both packages unless he and Tirico also split Sundays.[93] This will also be the final season Chris Berman serves as a studio analyst for ESPN's NFL programming; Berman has been with ESPN since the network's inception in 1979.[94]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Oilers received approval to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee in 1997, but elected to play at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis for one season while Nissan Stadium (in Nashville) was under construction.

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External links[edit]