NFL must pull the plug on free agency, now

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The NFL plans to proceed with the unofficial launch free agency at noon ET on Monday. If it happens, it will be one of the biggest mistakes the NFL ever has made.

It’s no longer about the bad optics of big contracts being handed out in deeply troubled times, although the optics remain less than optimal. It’s about the NFL doing its part to send a clear message that, at least for now, the world has fundamentally and dramatically changed. The new normal is that nothing is normal, and any effort to make things seem normal necessarily will be abnormal.

The NFL realizes that it’s a mistake to proceed; that’s why the NFL is working so hard to mobilize its friends and employees in the media to place blame on the union. When history chastises the NFL in the same way that it still does for playing games two days after the assassination of JFK, the NFL wants to be able to credibly say, “Don’t blame us, blame them.”

Baloney. The NFL still runs the sport. If the NFL wants to slam the brakes on free agency, it can. And if the NFL Players Association wants to file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the league of unfair labor practices because it implemented without bargaining a delay in free agency, so be it.

Maybe the truth is that the NFL wants to proceed with free agency, but that it also wants to deflect the P.R. fallout to someone else. If so, the union needs to make it clear that the league is pushing to go forward as aggressively as the players are.

If the NFL truly wants to press pause, there’s still hope that the NFL Players Association can be persuaded to see the light before the market opens at noon ET. As we reported last night, the NFL and NFL Players Association will be talking today about the situation. Tom Pelissero of NFL Media adds to this that the conversation will include “guidelines for how to conduct free agency — travel, medicals, etc. — amidst our national emergency.”

Maybe, just maybe, it will become obvious during these conversations that it will be impossible to properly handle the logistics and finalize the deals before the inevitable (and, yes, it’s inevitable) national quarantine is imposed by the President. When that happens, millions in tentative deals will plunge into limbo, with both team and player having days, weeks, or months to back out. Then will come the physicals. If the player fails the physical, he’ll be back on the market months after believing that his bank accounts will be flush with life-changing money.

The smart move continues to be pressing pause, for however long it takes. In 2011, the league delayed free agency until August, due to the lockout. Now, with much more at stake than winning a labor negotiation, the NFL needs to show real leadership amid this crisis and do the right thing for the game, the players, and the nation.

And, yes, this message ultimately is directed at one person: The man whose autograph appears on every NFL football.

37 responses to “NFL must pull the plug on free agency, now

  1. There is nothing about free agency that needs to be in person. The NFL could ban all travel and in-person visits by team personnel, that’s ultimately more important than stopping free agency.

  2. NO WAY!!!!
    too many things being postponed already. fans MUST have something to divert
    24 hour news feeds on coronavirus. If they delay free agency today, i will no
    longer support the NFL.

  3. The world can’t come to a stretching halt. Businesses all over the globe are continuing to run their businesses using remote alternatives vs. face to face meetings. The NFL is a business and must continue to run. They are doing so and they are doing so responsibly.

  4. It’s called digital signatures.
    You can buy houses with them.
    You can sign contracts with them too.

  5. I truly don’t understand why this is an issue. It’s not a safety issue that I can see. Players don’t have to jump on airplanes to go sign new deals in person anymore. Sure, it’s fun to see the new $100 million guy show up at your stadium the day he’s signed, but he can still sign without leaving home, and just live stream a video from his living room saying how happy he is to be a (insert team name here).

  6. It’s one thing to postpone the season (if the NFL was playing right now,) but to hault free agency? Why?

    Video conferencing is already abundant in pro sports. Granted in person meetings have a more personal feel, this can all be done remotely without delays. If anything, it could speed up the free agency period.

    The NFL is fortunate that they are basically the only sport that is not playing right now, so for them to follow suit with all other pro sports is here nor there.

  7. I personally think it would be nice to have free agency, people are already in a state of panic. It would give some people a distraction, which is good for everyone. No reason you cant do this remotely.

  8. They can be if that player had no offseason surgery or season ending injury. The Medical checks are what would be the hold up.

    RussianBreadMaker says:
    March 16, 2020 at 9:36 am
    I don’t understand why things cant be done remotely.

  9. If free agency can only occur with the stereotypical “wining and dining” of free agents, then yeah, it shouldn’t happen. But is that a necessary part of the process?

  10. This stuff is done in 32 remote offices. Life goes on and keeping things as normal as possible is good. What happens in August when training camp opens and no off season signings happened. What kind of a mess would that be..

  11. I’ll disagree in that SOME sense of normalcy would be pretty beneficial – especially since we’re talking about an activity that does not have to involve anything that violates ANY health protocols intended to prevent spread of the virus.

    Once you start shutting things down due to nothing other than “optics” and not based in a reasonable sense to serve preventing the spread of the virus, you’re doing nothing but spreading the panic mentality – which can be extremely damaging in its own right. So how about we stop doing that?

    We need to do two things if we’re going to get through this as best as possible physically, economically, and mentally:

    1. Slow the spread of the virus as much as possible to buy time for an effective vaccine to become available and to allow treatment capacity for those that contract the virus.

    2. Within those restrictions, we have to maintain the normalcy of life wherever we can and whenever we can.

    The first one is, without a doubt, most important. But please do not underestimate the importance of the second one.

  12. i have closed real estate deals without meeting the other side. They can email documents and sign via Docusign. This is not 1970.

  13. During WWII, FDR made it a point to continue baseball. He said the people needed relief from daily bad news of the war. He was right. Free agency is a very welcome diversion at this point in time.

  14. Enough videos and scouts around for potential FA review & signings. Offers contingent on a physicals, can be weeks down the road. Let the legal tampering begin, no reason not too.

    Yes, something to take our minds off of the current events & crashing stock markets would be good. Please entertain us.

  15. I’m the Chair of a large academic department at a university whose enrollment is growing; we therefore are always engaged in candidate searches. We’re hiring remotely; I’ll admit that Skype / Zoom doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s so easy to get a huge sample size of information on anyone you need. There’s a ton of tape on all of these players. There’s no reason not to go forward.

  16. Mike; I agree with you much of the time. Not on this issue. The optics are what they normally are….. the NFL free agent, if good, makes big bucks. We know that. There is not any sympathetic feeling towards the owners who will have to fly those big time free agents in for physicals and signings using, private jets.

    There is no Scheduled huge gatherings impacted until the draft. That can be done old style, without crowds, using electronic means. In fact, my guess is that it will be better than the pomp and circumstance it has morphed into of late. I say we just keep moving forward.

  17. The only reasonable point I have heard for delaying free agency is that teams don’t want players getting MRI’s and medical checks when hospitals are potentially going to be swamped with sick people. To that, I could see including language in any contracts signed while the country is on “lock down” that makes the contract contingent upon a satisfactory medical evaluation completed by (insert date). It’s not ideal, considering that a team might think it has it’s weakness at (insert position) solved only to have the player later fail the med check, but how is that any different from that same player blowing out an ACL the first week of training camp? At least they could get out of the contract. Seems like a better deal for the NFL to proceed than for the players!

  18. There is nothing at all wrong with the “optics” of signing contracts now. It’’s a good thing. It’s a reminder that we are all in a temporary situation and life will be back to normal in the near future. The only people who don’t like the optics are those that for some reason prefer the perpetual doom and gloom.

    Besides, free agency is a choice. Players can simply wait to sign contracts until whenever they like.

  19. The only things that need to be done in person are the medicals, and there are so many reports, scans and images that can be sent electronically that unless there is a real question about someones health, there’s no reason that can’t be done remotely.
    In addition, there is currently no travel ban within the U.S., so if a team truly wants their own doctors doing the exam in person, that can happen.
    As for the optics, I really don’t see the issue. If I need a new job right now, I’m going to interview for anything that’s available; remotely or in person if that’s what the employer wants. We’re in a serious situation that will likely get worse, but currently we can still travel, we can still go shopping to feed our families, and still visit our neighbors if we need to.
    The world has changed right now, it hasn’t shut down; there’s a difference. Just use some common sense.

  20. Postponing is about the physicals. Imagine what happens when a team signs the top player on their list, pending a physical, which the player fails 2 months from now; by which time every other player on that team’s list has signed elsewhere. Now what?

  21. Totally agree with Mike on this one.

    While the NBA is always forward-thinking, and leads by example, it seems the NFL never gets around to doing to right thing, from Ray Rice onward, unless they are painted into a corner and are forced to do the right thing.

    Some of the numb-skulls here who equate this with playing baseball during WW2 can’t quite wrap their big brains around the idea that we haven’t seen the worst of this virus yet, that too many politicians are minimizing it in a vain attempt to protect the White House, and that, at this point, Americans should be constantly reminded that we are no longer living in a “business as usual” world.

  22. filmex2000 says:
    March 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

    Totally agree with Mike on this one.

    While the NBA is always forward-thinking, and leads by example, it seems the NFL never gets around to doing to right thing, from Ray Rice onward, unless they are painted into a corner and are forced to do the right thing.

    Some of the numb-skulls here who equate this with playing baseball during WW2 can’t quite wrap their big brains around the idea that we haven’t seen the worst of this virus yet, that too many politicians are minimizing it in a vain attempt to protect the White House, and that, at this point, Americans should be constantly reminded that we are no longer living in a “business as usual” world.

    _______________________

    It’s so funny to see how selfish people are. “I don’t care about the well being of nfl players, I just want to be entertained with sports content”

    Stop being so ignorant

  23. Contracts signed remotely pending physicals when they can be done.

    If the owner really wants a physical done that badly they can send their private jet to a small airport to pick the player up and no one involved will go anywhere near crowds. They can eat at the team facility.

  24. The “optics” of continuing with free agency should be that life/business can and should go on with proper adjustments being made to still keep everyone safe. We can’t shut the world down, but we should make adjustments to do the best we can to keep things running.

  25. HERE’S THE DEAL,……..
    Teams want to give free agents a full physical before committing 10’s of millions $$$$$.
    Public Air Service is interrupted. That means chartering private aircraft to pick up the player and get them in town. We’re at war with a virus.

  26. Lots of players pass physicals with their original team only to fail the physical given by the team they’ve been traded to. Happens constantly.

  27. The Almighty Cabbage says:
    March 16, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Postponing is about the physicals. Imagine what happens when a team signs the top player on their list, pending a physical, which the player fails 2 months from now; by which time every other player on that team’s list has signed elsewhere. Now what?
    _________

    I guess that’s the chance you have to take. So what?

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