Seven teams meet the requirements for an involuntary selection for the 2016 edition of HBO's Hard Knocks series, but the New Orleans Saints are reportedly in the driver's seat with a fresh league year on the horizon.
Citing a league source, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that "the Saints are bracing for the possibility of the league tapping them on the shoulder and directing them to be the subject of the annual Hard Knocks series."
Beyond the Saints, the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Rams are all barred from declining participation because they met the qualifications established years ago by the NFL.
As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reported in 2013, a team is exempt from participating in the series if it has appeared on the show in the last 10 years, has a new head coach or has made the playoffs in either of the past two seasons.
However, the Saints' selection isn't set in stone, and Florio mentioned a key sticking point regarding head coach Sean Payton that could ultimately force the NFL to explore other options.
"Payton may resist allowing camera[s] into the room when players are being cut," Florio wrote. "And that, frankly, could be enough to get the NFL to draft a team that would be more willing to allow what often are the most compelling moments of the series to be captured."
The Saints would certainly be a captivating choice. Quarterback Drew Brees (37) is entering the twilight of his career, and the franchise is seeking to snap a two-year postseason drought.
The Rams are another intriguing option. With the team transitioning from St. Louis to Los Angeles, it could be fascinating to see how players adjust to life on the West Coast surrounded by the glitz and glam of Hollywood after spending years in the Midwest.
With diverse choices abounding, the 2016 edition of Hard Knocks feels like it will be a winning proposition regardless of which team winds up on camera.