As the seasons of so many sports leagues are suspended, postponed or canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL is letting its offseason move forward as scheduled.
The league sent an official memo to teams on Sunday saying the league will not delay the start of the new league year on Wednesday at 4 p.m., according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That means franchise and other tags will be due at noon on Monday, when free-agent negotiations can begin.
Now official. NFL sent memo to teams, informing them: Negotiation window noon tomorrow. League year weds. Franchise designation ends tomorrow at noon. Official.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2020
The decision to proceed comes despite some discussion of delaying the process as the coronavirus outbreak shuts down the sports world.
NFLPA pushed against coronavirus delay
According to Schefter, the NFL wanted to move back the start of its year, but the NFL Players Association would not agree to the measure. The union’s reported attitude toward a delay was that most discussions could be done remotely, and it’s not like the outbreak is showing many signs of getting better in the near future.
NFL says NFLPA would not provide consent to move league year, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2020
NFLPA says: No one is traveling anyway. It’s not football activity, it’s deals. Everyone is working remotely. Let’s do our business remotely. And this could get worse before it gets better. So do it now.
Retired Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, still a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, called for the start of free agency to pushed back on Sunday, but he was apparently in the minority among the NFLPA’s decision-makers.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, a few NFL executives shared that outlook of not thinking a few weeks of delay would make things much better.
Speaking to a few #NFL team execs this weekend, it was clear that one pertinent reality was keeping the start of the league year and free agency on track: NFL expects it will take MONTHS to get to a better set of circumstances than now. A few weeks will not solve current hurdles.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 15, 2020
So that’s the state of the NFL right now. The global pandemic is going to be around for so long that even delaying its free agency a few weeks would do little to help the situation.
Sports world still on hiatus
As the NFL moves to conference calls for all its free-agency meetings, the rest of the sports world remains on hiatus for the most part.
The NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, PGA Tour, NCAA and XFL have all suspended or canceled their seasons, and a recent guidance on Sunday from the CDC recommended against gatherings of more than 50 people — including sporting events — for the next eight weeks.
The NBA reportedly sees the best-case scenario as a mid-June return in empty stadiums. If it goes much longer, we’ll see just how many offseason team activities the NFL ends up having to cancel. At the very least, it’s beginning to look like the NFL draft won’t have any fans in attendance.
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