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Sans Physicals, Free Agent Contracts Can Still Be Wiped Out (Especially After Draft)

One of the most eye-opening realities of this offseason for the NFL is the fact that, in actuality, a lot of things that look as though they have already happened, have not. Specifically, a lot of contracts, and even trades, that teams have announced have not yet officially taken place, and that means they can still blow up.

We’ve already seen a couple of agreed-upon deals fall through, most notably the three-year, $30 million contract that Michael Brockers reportedly had in place with the Baltimore Ravens. Some players especially are worrying that we could see more of them fall apart over the next two weeks.

Because teams are unable to personally conduct medical checkups and physical examinations for players right now, the contracts that have been agreed to—whether they have actually been signed or not—often contain language that specifies the guaranteed money could be nullified at a later date in the event of a failed physical.

Then you have the NFL Draft coming up. If a team is able to address a need in the draft that they prefer to an option that they brought in during free agency, they could be persuaded to reneg on that contract. For example, what if the Pittsburgh Steelers had agreed to a deal that was not yet consummated with Mark Barron?

Remember, at this time last year, the Steelers still had Jon Bostic under contract, too. Then they drafted Devin Bush and Ulysees Gilbert III, releasing Bostic. Had that occurred this year, would they have considered terminating Barron’s deal instead?

Every day teams are beginning to trickle in deals that were announced a while ago but have only become official. Earlier today, for example, the Cleveland Browns finally made official the deal with safety Karl Joseph, which had first been announced on March 18.

It’s important to note that the NFL this offseason, because of the circumstances, loosened their restrictions for allowing teams to announce deals, even if they haven’t been finalized. Teams also used roundabout ways of announcing deals on social media.

Is the Steelers’ deal with Eric Ebron still ‘at-risk’? They know that Ebron is not fully healthy after having surgery on both of his ankles this offseason. Once they get a chance to get him in for a physical—which could be who knows when—might they decide to fail him, if possible, and get their guaranteed money back?

This is just another way that the unprecedented pandemic we are experiencing is interfering with football, one of the few respites we all share as a shelter from the outside world. But sometimes the outside has a way of beating down the door and forcing its way in.

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