These are uncertain times in the NFL, with the player vote on the proposed collective bargaining agreement dragging on, and deadline and dates being changed. And at some point, numerous team executives told me, they anticipate the actual start of the league year being flexed out as well.
NFL officials have said that will not be the case to this point … but again, we haven't been in a situation like this before, and we were also told not that long ago that the franchise and transition tag windows would not be changing. And, of course, they were pushed back, anyway, which only made sense after the NFLPA opted to give players until this weekend -- and beyond the conclusion of the original deadline to apply a franchise and transition tag.
Following all of this? Have I lost you already?
So, yeah, excuse team salary cap guys and negotiators if they are feeling a bit perplexed, too. At this point, Monday is shaping up like a whirlwind with the cap set and tags flying left and right and teams still having to cut players while also entering the legal tampering period when they can begin to hash out deals with outside free agents. Several execs I spoke to said they were hoping that, if nothing else and Monday still went down as is, that at least the tampering window would be extended some and the actual start of the League Year -- when all teams must be cap compliant and when signings become official.
Some agents are miffed because many of their veteran free agents, who normally would have already been released and thus been able to get an early jump on free agency, are still in limbo. Right now there are a lot of people in NFL who don't quite know what to do with themselves, with what I suppose you would call the illegal tampering period, not even cranking up yet, and teams and free agents yet to really exchange numbers until they see how all of this voting and moving deadlines works out.
I still get the feeling that this new CBA will pass. There is a silent majority of players who believe this deal makes good fiscal sense for them in the short term, and I continue to hear from player and agent sources who are largely in favor of taking this deal. Of course, now we won't know until Sunday for certain what the outcome will be. With JC Tretter, viewed as a more moderate voice in the CBA process, elected the new president of the NFLPA, many in union circles believe that, too, may be an indication of the direction this will go in.
Why the passing of a new CBA takes time
A lot has been made of the back-and-forth between players over this deal. And some of the social media interactions have been intense. Which begs the question -- why does it really take this long to vote?
The primary tenants of this proposal were sent out w while back. Yes, a 456-page document is a lot to digest -- but how many players -- or anyone from that matter -- would really be pouring over every single word? That is what union leadership and lawyers are for. Allowing this voting process to spread out over a week -- when there are roughly 2,000 members of differing background and opinions -- has exacerbated the rancor.
"You would think that 72 hours would be enough, right?" asked one agent. Then there was the drama about whether or not players could change their vote. This isn't an easy process in general, and some confusion and consternation are inevitable when we are talking about a deal of this magnitude, but it's been a trying week in the player and agent community, with divisions playing out very much in public.
How coronavirus impacts the NFL
There is a lot of talk going on in NFL circles about coronavirus, and I spoke to several team execs this week who believe altering the draft and upcoming league meetings may be in the best interest of all. If the virus continues to spread -- and at a time when other leagues are making significant changes and canceling events or holding them without fans -- so too will concern as to whether it really makes sense have hundreds of team officials gathered in one spot.
"Think about the age of some of these owners," said one team president. "These are the people who are most at risk. Even flying on a private plane, there are risks involved."
The NFL continues to assert that the draft and meetings are a full go, with the caveat that it could always change based on advice from medical and government officials. Several execs told me they would support cutting the meetings short or conducting most of them via teleconference. Perhaps that gains some traction if things continue to trend in the current direction.
Some execs are also wondering if it doesn't make more sense to have standardized pro days for draft prospects as well, rather than some teams having as many as eight representatives at many of these workouts.
"There are hundreds of scouts and coaches and GMS going around to all of these – are we sure that is the smartest way to do this right?" one exec said. "Couldn't we have two scouts at each one who record the times and everything is shared with every team and we stream the workouts? Should we have these kids flying all over the country making visits to teams?
Don't be surprised if the virus has an impact on team spending. The mere thought of losing revenue from empty stadiums will resonate with some of these ownership groups -- especially those already less inclined to spend, anyway. A few execs said the climate reminded them of that leading up to the lockout -- when owners used the impending uncertainty to slash some pensions and benefits to coaches and cut costs.
Trust me, the virus -- and what might be to come -- is a constant topic of conversation among team and league employees. How the virus has already impacted pro sports in Italy and Japan is not going unnoticed. And all eyes are on the NFL headquarters in New York City.
Broncos should shift focus to re-signing Lindsay
One team that seemed determined to spend some money when the market fully opened is the Denver Broncos. I just can't figure out why, according to some reports coming out of Denver, they would do so for a running back.
What am I missing?
Philip Lindsay is still under their contract, correct? He isn't a restricted free agent until next year, right? In a very similar situation as another recent undrafted free agent -- Austin Ekeler -- who just signed a multi-year extension with the Chargers, last I checked. I'm pretty sure that Lindsay is the first undrafted free agent to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie and the first ever to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two years.
And, if I recall, he has done that despite playing behind a brutal offensive line and with rampant instability at the quarterback position and not a whole lot else you can count on at the QB position. Why the Broncos wouldn't already be deeply engaged in negotiations with him, frankly, baffles me, especially if they are in fact eager to dump big bucks into some older running back. Then again, the Broncos haven't yet sorted through their situation with Joe Flacco yet, either, and haven't had much success with roster transactions lately and are coming off their worst three-year run in modern franchise history.
Lindsay is ninth in the NFL with 2,048 rushing yards the past two years. He is tied for 10th in rushing touchdowns. He has made absolute peanuts. He is one of the best stories in the NFL, living with his parents for a while in Denver area after growing up there a huge Broncos fan. He is awesome off the field. If there is a reason not to invest in this kind of kid, someone tell me what it is?
Why wouldn't a Devonta Freeman-type deal be in the offing? Instead, as best I glean, there is nothing cooking. I just don't get it. Denver needs help along the offensive and defensive lines. It needs more pass catchers. It needs infrastructure for young QB Drew Lock. I would have thought Lindsay would have a deal by now. Instead, nothing seems close, and the Broncos have me baffled, again.