The NFL Player Association had a conference call with player agents on Monday and revealed some major insights into the current and upcoming situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 season. Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline outlined some of the most important points, which I’ll relay here:
Teams are not allowed to sign veteran free agents right now
Pauline says that the reason you haven’t heard any breaking news on Jadeveon Clowney or some of these other big free agents is that teams are barred from bringing them in for physicals or to sign contracts. The NFL is one of the last leagues around to not allow e-signatures, requiring all contracts to be signed in person. That could change.
Player physicals remain a major issue. Some teams disallow players getting physicals at the office of a team doctor and mandate the team doctor must perform said physical on players at the team facility. This is not a broad-brush rule, rather a team by team mandate.
On a related note, there is serious concern about existing free agents and their inability to work out for teams, participate in mini-camps, and take physicals. The bottom line is there is no fix for veterans still on the market. In fact, teams are currently prohibited from bringing in free agent players to examine them or sign them to a contract.
And when players are finally able to sign contracts? The NFLPA is looking hard at digitally signing them to minimize face-to-face contact.
The salary cap could be going down, not up or away
The NFLPA fears as much as a $3 billion revenue loss for the NFL next season if fans aren’t able to attend the games and that could mean a lower salary cap for 2021. The 2020 salary cap is $198,200,000 and the LA Rams are one team with the least amount of space. Things get a bit better in 2021 but now that $42.8 million cap room estimation by OvertheCap (based on a $215 million cap) could shrink considerably.
The NFLPA is also looking into how to protect players who may have pre-existing conditions that make it unsafe for them to participate. One such player is Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals, who is a diabetic. They are looking to test players and coaches every three days and there has been work on the development of a face shield for players to wear during games.
There is also talk of increasing camp rosters to 95 and that all June mini-camps were cancelled, as expected. But mostly there are more questions than answers other than the fact that teams can’t sign free agents right now and the 2021 salary cap has probably already been impacted for the worse.