Despite talk that the NFL would delay the start of the league year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many of those who work for NFL teams think the league will keep to its original schedule.
According to multiple reports, team officials are operating on the assumption that the league year will start on time, which means the “legal tampering” period will start as planned at noon ET on Monday, and free agency will begin on Wednesday.
From the league’s perspective, the idea may be that free agency can be conducted remotely: Team personnel executives can communicate with players and agents on the phone and online, contracts can be sent electronically and by fax, and there’s not a risk of spreading the coronavirus by opening free agency as planned.
The problem is that free agent signings are generally contingent on a player passing a physical, which would require him to fly to a team facility and meet in person with the team medical staff, at a time when Americans are being advised not to travel. And big-name free agent signings are usually accompanied with great fanfare, press conferences and publicity events. That absolutely can’t happen in the current environment.
There’s also the issue of optics, as the NFL may look out of touch if it’s announcing lucrative contracts at a time when the American economy is taking a massive hit and ordinary Americans are suffering.
So the league will have a tough decision on its hands about how to proceed, and not much time to make that decision.