One of the most important tasks during a season that an NFL team is responsible for that largely is conducted behind the scenes is doing the due diligence of monitoring the available talent around the league. This is not just about potential trades and things like that, but also in creating an index of street free agents who would be available to be called upon if needed.
Conducting in-season tryouts with players during the week is common procedure in the NFL, and occurs pretty much on a weekly basis, even if it is not always reported. Often, several players at one time would be hosted together, even working out together.
At least for the time being, that’s not going to happen any time soon, subject to further deliberation. As of now, NFL teams are not permitted to conduct any tryouts for players, based on the memo that the league sent out to teams earlier in the week.
This also limits teams’ abilities to sign traditional free agents, like a Jadeveon Clowney or a Logan Ryan, if they want to bring him in for a visit. Players who are not under contract are not permitted to work out for teams. They can send a video or something like that if requested. This is a large part of the reason why the two players I named, among others, are not signed yet.
“This is part of the effort to ensure that the virus is kept out of a given building, and that any player who shows up at the facility has been appropriately tested”, Mike Florio writes about the league currently restricting teams from carrying out tryouts. “As a practical matter, this concern will complicate the inevitable churning of the bottom of the roster and/or practice squad”.
Teams will have 16-man practice squads this season, a total of 69 players made up of 80-man offseason rosters. This will leave every team with first-hand information about roughly 11 players that they had previously worked with this offseason. Inevitably, they will be shuffling outsiders onto the roster at some point.
Take the Pittsburgh Steelers from a year ago. During the season, they acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick and Nick Vannett via trade. They signed Paxton Lynch, first to the practice squad, and then to the 53-man roster. Tony Brooks-James, Deon Cain, and Kerrith Whyte all spent time on the 53-man roster after having had no prior relationship with the team at the start of the regular season, as well as Amara Darboh.
That doesn’t include all of the changes that you see on the practice squad year after year. The practice squad that the Steelers finished the season with looked a lot different from the group that it started with, including Jamal Custis, Quadree Henderson, J.T. Barrett, Christian DiLauro, and Tray Matthews, all of whom had no prior relationship to the team at the start of the season.