Consider at least one NFL head coach as expecting the league to push back its calendar as virtually the rest of the sports world has done. Saints’ head coach Sean Payton said he doesn’t expect free agency to begin on the 18th as scheduled due to the logistics caused by the coronavirus.
— TVG (@TVG) March 14, 2020
“I think most immediately, the start of our league year, which is due to be this Wednesday, free agency begins, that’s going to be I think pushed back. Because there’s a lot that goes into that. There’s a lot of visits players take.”
It would be difficult to start the year as planned for several reasons. Getting air travel to fly out to facilities and the obvious inherent risk in that not to mention the fact some teams have shut down their headquarters, advising coaches and scouts to work from home. Players need to undergo and pass physicals in order to officially sign contracts. With hospitals overloaded and focused on treating this virus, it’s an unnecessary burden on those limited and critical resources.
Payton also strongly believes the draft will look far different this year, too.
“Certainly the format is going to change relative to what they’re used to.”
He did say he was unsure if the date of the draft would change from its current late April schedule. The NFL denied rumors last night that they were planning to push the event back at least a month into late May.
Delaying everything is a wise decision for the league. They’re in no particular hurry to get these things done and in 2011, free agency didn’t begin until July due to the lockout. There are clearly bigger issues right now than getting players signed to contracts. Expect the league to make an announcement very soon.