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Where the NFL’s Next International Frontier Could Be in 2024

League officials are scheduled to decide Wednesday, with one South American destination leading the vote. Plus, notes on the salary cap, Tommy DeVito and more.

Week 14 is done, and we’re at the league meeting in Dallas, where some semblance of news will come. Probably …

• This meeting is generally more business-oriented, but there is at least one point of interest for fans on the agenda for Wednesday: The NFL will discuss where its next frontier is for the international series.

a stadium full of fans with NFL Frankfurt Games written on the side barrier

This season’s international games were hosted in Frankfurt and London.

As I’ve heard, Brazil is the current leader in the clubhouse, with Spain still under consideration as the league looks to fill the opening it has now that Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca is unable to host a game in 2024 (due to World Cup–related renovations). Should Brazil get the game, it’d be played in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. If it’s in Spain, it would likely go to Madrid.

And part and parcel to that will be further discussion of expanding the burden on NFL teams to play overseas—with every team subject to losing a home game once every four years, rather than every eight years, to the league’s international pursuits.

• In a situation like the Chargers are in, Plan A (having your quarterback not get hurt) is always preferable.

But Plan B will, at least, give the rest of us a good look at the way Los Angeles has handled the spot behind Justin Herbert over the past few years. It drafted Easton StickCarson Wentz’s successor as starting quarterback at North Dakota State—in the 2019 fifth round. The team thought enough of Stick to keep him on as a third-rostered quarterback for the duration of his rookie deal, as Tyrod Taylor, Chase Daniel and others filtered through.

With that development under Stick’s belt, the Chargers re-signed him in March as Herbert’s primary backup. Now we’ll get to see what comes of five years of investment into a player at the most important position in the sport. I’m kind of intrigued to see what we’ll get, though I may be the only one who is.

• The Browns’ tackle situation is, well, messy. Jedrick Wills Jr.Jack Conklin and Dawand Jones are all out for the year; for most teams, being down to your fourth and fifth players at that particular position would be season-ending.

But there’s a difference between being messy and being a mess, and I’d say there’s a decent chance Cleveland won’t devolve into the latter because of the presence of offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Bill Callahan puts his hands out in a gesture as he coaches

Callahan has over 20 years of experience coaching in the NFL.

This is why Cleveland was willing to pay for a position coach, and why it’s big money well spent. It starts, of course, with the Browns spending a fourth-round pick on James Hudson III in 2021, and plucking Geron Christian off the street in October. But from there, it’s Callahan leaning on his experience to develop Hudson on one hand and get Christian up and running on the other, so the situation, while still not even close to ideal, doesn’t turn into a five-alarm fire.

Part of it is also how scarce coaches of Callahan’s caliber are. Former Patriots coach Dante Scarnecchia was at that level before he retired. The Eagles’ Jeff Stoutland and 49ers’ Chris Foerster are two now. Outside of that, it’s hard to find people like Callahan—and it really matters in times like the ones the Browns are now.

• Tommy DeVito’s story seems to be growing by the week, and there’s a good lesson in its beginnings with the Giants.

Every spring, teams are allowed to stage a local pro day, which is open to players who either played college ball or grew up nearby. DeVito, being from North Jersey, was eligible for New York’s and got the invite. It was there, really, that he won over the staff and set the wheels in motion to sign with the team a few weeks later.

A big piece of it was that, at these workouts, the entire coaching and scouting staff can come out and watch the players. So to a greater extent than at DeVito’s pro day with Illinois, the Giants could get a wide range of opinions on the local kid as a prospect—helping to close his file and make him a priority target. Which gives you one more example of how geography has played into a pretty fun late-season story line.

• Normally, teams are given a salary cap projection at this meeting, and that isn’t going to happen this time around. But teams I’ve talked to have used numbers between $235 million and $240 million for their own internal planning, and in bumping around at this meeting I’ve gotten the feeling that the final number will probably end up somewhere between $240 million and $245 million.

The jumps the last two years—the cap went up $25.7 million from 2021 to ’22, and $16.6 million from ’22 to ’23—are the biggest two jumps, by raw number, in the 30-year history of the salary cap.

• Discussion about major events are on the agenda for this meeting, with the 2025 combine and Super Bowl LXI (that’s in February ’27) scheduled to be the big topics.

In terms of broadcasting, games on Peacock and next year’s Black Friday plan are on the ledger, too.

• During a week in which the Ravens were able to get a game-winning play from a backup punt returner, the team is once again deftly working the bottom of its roster, plucking rookie quarterback Malik Cunningham off the Patriots’ practice squad. Cunningham has an existing relationship with fellow Louisville product Lamar Jackson, and a playing style that should fit within an offense that’s been constructed specifically for Jackson.

Malik Cunningham throws the ball with one hand wearing a Patriots’ hoodie

Cunningham overlapped with Jackson at Louisville for one season (2017).

Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. But it’s a good risk to take either way, with the potential there to develop a long-term backup.

• With the Bears suddenly catching fire, both Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles have given their bosses (new president Kevin Warren among them) plenty to think about before they plan any changes. And, in fact, a lot of this has come according to plan—with this season earmarked as the time to reset the cap and flip the roster, and 2024 the first real year of building.

Taking all that into account, a bumpy Year 1, plus a Year 2 with a tough start and strong finish, is probably what Chicago would have hoped for.

• North Carolina QB Drake Maye is, rightfully, widely seen as the second quarterback in the 2024 class. But with his declaration Tuesday morning to forgo the rest of his eligibility and skip the Tar Heels’ bowl game, there is one question worth asking that concerns his playing experience.

We mentioned last week that Texas QB Quinn Ewers’s expected decision to stay in school was based, in part, on data that college quarterbacks with more than 25 starts tend to be much more ready for the pros. Maye is right at that line, with 26 starts. That, of course, isn’t to say he won’t make it. But the UNC product does lack in that category next to fellow expected top-half-of-the-first-round picks Caleb Williams (33 starts) and Jayden Daniels (55 starts).

• One last thing on the Chiefs-Bills officiating situation. If you watch that ground-level shot that a fan took, you’ll see the official threw the flag at the snap. So for the folks who are upset about negating an incredible play (and it was incredible), I’d ask this: What do you want the ref to do? Say that it was too cool a play to flag and call off the penalty? Do you know how ridiculous the idea of that is? O.K., I’m done.