NFL should consider delaying the start of free agency

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As American citizens deal with an unprecedented public-health crisis that has begun to disrupt daily life for millions and will continue to do so, the NFL needs to take a candid, clear-eyed look at a major event planned for next week.

Free agency begins on Monday. (Technically, Wednesday; as a practical matter, Monday.) Players will agree to terms on multi-million-dollar contracts. Reporters will breathlessly tweet the news and analyze the terms. Press conferences will tout the deals, with new shirts proudly held up (while reporters are kept a safe distance away).

And it will all seem ridiculously trite and trivial and tone deaf.

Free agency doesn’t have to start next week. It needs to start, at the latest, a couple of weeks before the draft. And the draft doesn’t need to start on April 23, especially if it’s ultimately going to be moved from a public venue to a TV studio.

There’s no reason not to press pause while the world adjusts to this abnormal new normal that may take some time to actually normalize. With the situation becoming more serious at an exponential rate, the league needs to think not about how things are now (bad) but how they could be in five days (much worse).

A delay would also have a potential collateral benefit, in the event the vote on the new CBA fails on Saturday night. The extra time resulting from the delayed start of free agency could give the NFL and the NFL Players Association one last chance to work out a new deal before the start of the 2020 league year. (Then again, the notion that the owners would dial back some of the terms of the current deal if it has the chance definitely isn’t bluster.)

Regardless, NFL free agency — one of the major offseason tentpoles — becomes ridiculously meaningless when playing out against the ever-changing coronavirus pandemic. People won’t care, especially in the short term. While on one hand the churning of reports and rumors and signings will provide a much-needed diversion for many, it may be too soon for any diversions, given the speed with which this situation is unfolding.

17 responses to “NFL should consider delaying the start of free agency

  1. We all need to slow down and think. Some things are important to slow the spread of this virus. Other things are more symbolic in nature. Is it wise to go to crowded arenas and stadiums right now? Probably not. But we also need to keep as much as we can going on as usual. Free agency? I think it can happen without increasing much, if any, risk of spreading this virus. Negotiations can happen remotely, phone, skype, etc. We will need some distraction from this and sports is something that can help provide it.

  2. It won’t get any better this is the perfect time to do it. The union will never agree the players get paid this next week.

  3. Can the NFL legally delay free agency without an agreement with the NFLPA and a player and owner vote? It would seem to me that the expiration of contracts and subsequent ability to negotiate new contracts is a fundamental feature of the collective bargaining agreement. Usually a company cant negotiate exclusive rights to something for one year and then decide to make that year longer.

  4. This isn’t going away in a few weeks unfortunately, don’t see what difference a delay would make. Hate to say it but chances are this will have spread even more by then.

  5. I get it but I completely disagree. On the one hand things only distract when they are allowed to distract. I doubt seriously the free agency period is going to rise to the level of a distraction. But on the other hand, if it does? So what? We can’t shut down because the world is in turmoil. A little distraction might be the one thing that saves people from getting down with it. There is never a time frame on that.

  6. Everyone needs to be aware of the possibility that the entire 2020 NFL season could be wiped out.
    It’s serious, guys.

  7. Why should the NFL delay free agency? The process doesn’t represent any great public health risk so why change it based on optics only? In times of stress keeping as much “normal’ as possible is invaluable.

  8. I disagree. Every other sport is going to be stopping. There is going to be no news. Nothing to talk about except the Coronavirus. There is nothing wrong with generating news. We don’t all need to have a moment of silence to adjust to the news. People everywhere are still going to work, and still going through life. Why should this part of life stop as well?

  9. This is a pandemic that is a killer for the aged and infirm and is not to be taken lightly.People are concerned for their older loved ones and others who have infirmities that are compromised more by this covid-19 virus.Sports is entertainment and has to take a back seat until this scourge runs it course.

  10. Stick to the plan. Keep the draft in April, with no public participation. No big deal.

  11. Skype could be used to contact players that way no flight if that’s the fear. Isn’t that what’s done for the secret early period.

  12. Why suspend it? Doesnt have to be done in person. Cant negotiations be done via telephone, email, facetime or the like?

    It might not allow the player to visit teams, but you can still do things electronically.

  13. No delay necessary… just sign contracts and then stream the press release on twitter or sthing.

  14. It’s 2020 and we have video conferencing, as well as esignature. Teams don’t need to meet a player in person to sign a deal. They’ve hopefully been researching a player and his team fit for months before handing him millions of dollars, so his presence to shake hands during a pandemic is unnecessary.

  15. I completely disagree. No human contact is needed to sign a contract, be on a phone call, etc. The press conferences can be delayed if they are that worried about that aspect of it

  16. Even though it was just a small footnote in here about the CBA I dont understand why it would be ok for the NFL and the NFLPA(NFL players association) to meet or to negotiate online yet it wouldnt be ok for NFL owners and players to meet or negotiate online.

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