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This is an article version of the CBS Sports HQ AM Newsletter, the ultimate guide to every day in sports. You can sign up to get it in your inbox every weekday morning here.

🏈 Good morning to everyone but especially ...


Kickoff returns are back like never before. NFL owners approved a drastic overhaul of kickoffs, breathing life back into a play gone stale. It's unlike anything we've seen before, unless you watched the XFL. The following will be on a one-year trial run in 2024:

  • Teams will kick from the same spot -- their own 35. The 10 players on the coverage team, though, line up at the receiving team's 40, and nine players on the return team would line up in the "setup zone" between their own 35- and 30-yard lines. Neither unit can move until the kick hits the ground or a returner.
  • The returning team has up to two returners in the "return zone," which stretches from the goal line to the 20-yard line.
  • There are no fair catches.

As for the kick itself ...

  • If the kick fails to reach the return zone, the returning team gets the ball at its own 40.
  • If the kick goes through the end zone or is downed inside the end zone on the fly, the returning team gets the ball at its own 35.
  • If the kick lands in the return zone and then travels into the end zone and is downed in the end zone, the returning team gets the ball at its own 20.
  • If the ball is fielded in the return zone, it must be returned.

Here it is in picture form.

Returns had gone by the wayside as the NFL got better injury data. In 2009, the league made wedge blocking illegal. In 2011, it moved the kickoff line up to the 35. And in 2016, it started spotting touchbacks at the 25. Last year, only 22% of kickoffs were returned, the lowest rate in NFL history. The new format encourages returns and makes them safer -- wins for all parties.

Basically, this play matters again. The Steelers already acknowledged as much, signing Cordarrelle Patterson -- he of nine career kickoff return touchdowns -- to a two-year deal. It matters not just for returners but for coverage aces, blockers and special teams coordinators, too. Jeff Kerr spoke to one such coach, the Saints' Darren Rizzi about the changes. 

The one downside here is that the surprise onside kick is no more; teams can only try it in the fourth quarter and must declare before doing so.

Here's the entire list of rule changes.

😄 Honorable mentions

😑 And not such a good morning for ...

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One day after owner Jerry Jones admitted his team's approach is no longer "all in," the Cowboys might be all the way out on a Dak Prescott extension. The star quarterback is expected to play the 2024 season -- the final of his current contract -- without an extension. It's a drastic change from earlier this month, when Prescott said he was "definitely confident" about getting an extension, adding, "It'll happen."

Apparently it won't. An extension could've helped spread out Prescott's $55 million cap hit (second in the NFL to Deshaun Watson), but Jones said Dallas' approach for the season is now "get it done with less." I'm sure that's what every Cowboys fan wants to hear.

Now, Prescott could walk after this season, and the Cowboys would get nothing in return. While I get the qualms with Prescott and his lack of postseason success, he's a 30-year-old three-time Pro Bowler who just led the league with 36 touchdowns passing and finished second in MVP voting. These types of quarterbacks pretty much never become available.

But if that happens, Cody Benjamin has potential 2025 landing spots for Prescott. Atop the list is ...

  • Benjamin: "1. Saints -- No NFL team refuses to rebuild quite like the cap-manipulating Saints, and there's pressure on current quarterback Derek Carr to live up to his $150 million deal -- a contract New Orleans can dump in order to save anywhere from $11 million to $40 million after the 2024 campaign. ... This would represent a homecoming for Prescott, who was born and raised in the state of Louisiana, and might also prefer the NFC South's path to the playoffs."

Even without looking to 2025, this is a disappointing and risky move. The Cowboys have a win-now core and should be doing whatever they can to actually, uh, win now. But when your owner isn't all in, you get results like this.

😕 Not so honorable mentions

🏀 NCAA Men's Tournament: Resetting our brackets, handing out awards

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Well, we made it through one March Madness-less day, and we only have to make it through today before the men's Sweet 16 begins.

Whether your bracket went in the dumpster/shredder/fire days ago or is in good shape, we all wish we could be perfect. Here at CBS Sports, we wiped the slate clean and gave our experts a chance to redo their picks from here on out. Everyone is sticking with their original champion, but there are changes elsewhere.

Before we completely forget the first two rounds, Kyle Boone awarded his All-First Weekend teams, and on the first team is ...

  • Zach Edey
  • Donovan Clingan, 
  • Terrence Shannon Jr.
  • Tyler Kolek
  • Mark Sears

Half of the remaining teams are No. 1 or No. 2 seeds. There's only one double-digit seed -- (11) NC State -- and it's hard to consider the ACC Tournament champs a true Cinderella. But with so many of the nation's best still alive, we're set for a thrilling second weekend, Tom Fornelli writes.

  • Fornelli: "The average spread for the eight games is 5.4 points. That's two possessions in games that will feature anywhere between 60 and 75 possessions. For the rest of the dance, we're essentially dealing with a series of coin flips. Anything can happen, and that will continue to be the case into the Elite Eight, Final Four and national title game. No, the first weekend didn't bring as much insanity as you wanted. But the next two weekends? Strap in because it's going to be a wild, bumpy ride."

🏀 How Caitlin Clark became an Iowa Hawkeye

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Here's one way to fill your madness-less Wednesday: Dennis Dodd's feature on how Caitlin Clark and Iowa became one in the same.

This is an all-timer. Exotic meals in Bangkok. Basketball games in the football stadium. Celebrities. Records. NIL deals. A commitment to a different school. Dennis explores it all. Here's one of my favorite parts:

  • Dodd: "Monday's sellout was the 33rd of Iowa's 35 games this season. The Common Sense Institute of Iowa concluded Clark has accounted for an $82.5 million statewide economic impact over the last three seasons. Quite a stark contrast from the B.C. (Before Clark) days. ... Nike has hung two giant banners in downtown Iowa City. One is Clark, from behind, simply shooting a jump shot. The other shows the Nike swoosh and the Iowa logo positioned above a basket: 'This was never a long shot.'"

I can't give away too much more. All I can give you is advice: Read the story.

⚾ Jordan Montgomery signs with Diamondbacks

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At long last, Jordan Montgomery is off the market. The lefty is joining the team he just helped beat in the World Series -- the Diamondbacks -- on a one-year, $25 million deal

Montgomery, 31, also gets a $20 million player option for 2025 if he makes 10 starts. That rises to $22.5 million with 18 starts and $25 million with 23 starts. He has made 30+ starts in each of the last three seasons.

Montgomery started his career with the Yankees, was traded to the Cardinals midway through 2022 and dealt to the Rangers midway through 2023. He was excellent in Texas with a 2.97 regular-season ERA and a 2.90 postseason ERA as the franchise won its first World Series.

Montgomery was the No. 10 free agent in the class per R.J. Anderson, and with him off the board, each of R.J.'s top 33 have either signed or retired.

📺 What we're watching Wednesday

🏀 Clippers at 76ers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Bruins at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Suns at Nuggets, 10 p.m. on ESPN