By the time this publishes, or perhaps by the time you read this, there seems to be a good chance that the fluidity of the current situation will have resulted in the story having already changed. At least for the time being, however, the NFL has “no plans” to move the start time on the new league year; yet that could change.
Mike Florio writes for Pro Football Talk that the league is considering a delay, even if there are currently “no plans” for it. The NFL held a long conference call with teams last night, which no doubt discussed this very topic, and according to his sources, they are “contemplating the possibility of announcing on Sunday a delay in the start of free agency”, saying that they want to wait until after the voting on the Collective Bargaining Agreement is done for fear that it would delay that process even further.
While the league has not pushed back the start of the new league year, it has already made multiple adjustments to the offseason calendar in order to accommodate both the negotiation and the voting process with respect to the CBA, including first shifting backward the entirety of the tag period, and then extending the deadline by several days to assure that it comes after the CBA voting is through—which was also extended, now through to the end of this week.
As Florio points out, and as I mentioned earlier today, delaying free agency is not exactly unprecedented. During the 2011 lockout that stemmed from the last CBA negotiations, the owners forced a work stoppage for over four months, during which time free agents could not sign with teams, all the way until late July.
He writes that the NFL “is keenly aware of the optics” when it comes to the free agency process, which involves teams flying into new cities, shaking hands, signing big-money contracts, holding up jerseys in celebration of their new partnership, and holding press conferences.
With several teams having already shut down their facilities and others surely to follow, a lot of these details are not even currently possible. And one does have to wonder, even with all eyes of the sporting world suddenly turned toward them, how many people outside of the standard crowd would be able to bring themselves to care.
Should the NFL decide to take his move and delay free agency, it is not immediately clear how that would affect other things. Would that also delay the official start of the new league year, at which point teams would be required to be compliant with the salary cap? Would that also push back the deadline to tag players? I suppose we will know more by Sunday at the latest, if not, as I said, by the time you’re reading this.