NFL free agency to proceed as scheduled; new league year won't be delayed, after all

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 was the question of whether or not it would 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 later noted that things were trending in the direction of starting on time. Well, the league has since released a memo that has confirmed it'll be business as usual this week. The legal tampering period, free agency and all other major events on the calendar for this week will go on as scheduled. 

Here's a quick breakdown of what is ahead in what promises to be a very hectic week in the NFL: 

  • Monday, March 16 at 11:59:59 a.m. ET: Franchise/transition tag deadline 
  • Monday, March 16 at 12 p.m. ET: Legal tampering period opens 
  • Wednesday, March 18 at 4 p.m. ET: New league year begins and free agency opens. 

Part of the reason why the NFL is 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. 

In fact, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the NFLPA would not provide consent to move the new league year. They argued that no one is traveling, it's not football activity, emphasized how the work can be done remotely, and wants to get it going in the event the pandemic gets worse before it gets better. 

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. 

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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