It was around this time last year that the pandemic was beginning to rear its head in the US. It wouldn’t take much longer for it to begin to affect the NFL’s calendar, with Pro Days being cancelled widespread, though they did get in the NFL Scouting Combine, which won’t be held traditionally this year.
Another significant absence from last year’s offseason was free agency visits. While it’s not uncommon for players to sign with teams without meeting first—especially the prime free agents, who often informally reach deals days in advance of the new league year—the inability to meet face to face with teams and hold in-person workouts was certainly disadvantageous for some players.
At least as of now, however, the NFL is not prohibiting teams from hosting free agents this offseason. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted yesterday, unless otherwise noted, players may travel to visit teams and conduct physicals in-person, though, of course, they must go through some protocols first.
This could be especially important for somebody like Bud Dupree of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who suffered a torn ACL in the second half of the 2020 season, at which point he was on pace to match his breakout 2019 season.
Dupree played under the franchise tag last year worth more than $15 million, but it’s unknown how significantly his knee injury will affect his value. The widespread prediction has been that he will ultimately have to settle for a one-year deal with moderate compensation in order to re-establish his value.
While teams were permitted to arrange with players to have off-site physicals conducted at a medical facility local to said player last season, it will be completely different when their own medical physicians will be able to personally go over the players on their own.
From all indications, Dupree’s rehab on his knee has been going very well, and hopefully some teams out there feel similarly, and are confident that he will be ready to be out there on the field in September, renewing his latest shot at a 10-sack season.
Of course, it’s not only injured players who can benefit from an in-person visit. Anybody who is of a lesser status, whose play clearly speaks for itself, can benefit from being able to meet with coaches and owners and general managers first-hand.
The Steelers are an organization that historically has greatly favored in-person meetings before they sign a player, and I imagine that they intend to take advantage of being able to get back to bringing in players this offseason—assuming, of course, that they can afford to sign anybody.