NFL league year, free agency reportedly trending toward starting on time; league discussed possible delay

Now that the new NFL collective bargaining agreement has been approved, teams can operate under the new guidelines for the 2020 league year. While the new league year is scheduled to begin Wednesday, there is the question of whether or not it’ll be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the United States and the rest of the world. 

Pro Football Talk reported earlier on Sunday that the league did discuss delaying the start of free agency, but Adam Schefter of ESPN has since noted that things are trending in the direction of starting on time. Of course, things can change depending how the pandemic evolves or devolves throughout the world between then and now, but things do appear to be heading towards business as usual in the NFL when it comes to free agency. 

The legal tampering period is scheduled to start Monday. Free agents are officially able to sign contracts when the new league year begins Wednesday. Players can still sign with teams, but those free agents will not be able to visit team facilities since they are closed. 

The NFL Annual Meeting, which was set for March 29 through April 1, was one of the first major offseason events to be canceled. The league also banned college players taking top-30 visits to team facilities, as teams have shut down their practice facilities due to the coronavirus outbreak over the past week. 

Teams can schedule no more than three telephone or video conferences with an individual draft-eligible player per week (Sunday through Saturday), per the new guidelines set by the NFL. Each conversation (telephone for video chat) can last no longer than one hour. Those meetings also cannot be conducted during a time that interferes with a player’s school schedule. 

As things stand currently, the start of the new league year appears to be full steam ahead. Part of the reason why the NFL may be comfortable electing to go forward with the start of the new league year is because free agency is not a spectator event. Outside of physicals (which could, in theory, be delayed), teams can also negotiate with free agents remotely and come to terms on a deal without even having the player/his reps travel to them or vice versa. 

While this is a rather manageable piece to the puzzle for the NFL and its operation, the NFL draft later this spring will be an entirely different beast that folks should keep a strong eye on.  

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