March 13, 2020
There's no basketball, or hockey, or baseball, or golf, as coronavirus has forced the suspension or cancellation of many of Americans' favorite sports. While the NFL isn't currently in season, it has been affected as well. And so, let's take a look at where the Eagles and the league as a whole stands in their response to this global pandemic.
The Eagles have closed both the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field, directing employees, with some limited exceptions (think Howie Roseman, etc.), to work from home.
The Eagles had also already canceled all travel associated with scouting trips.
Each team is allotted 30 pre-draft visits to their facilities. Historically, they have been good indicators of the players and/or positional groups the Eagles might be interested in.
While the league didn't officially announce anything on this front, several media outlets are reporting that NFL prospects will not be making those formal visits to teams' headquarters this year.
Each spring, usually at the end of March, the entire NFL convenes in a posh resort, where the owners discuss the direction of the league, and media sessions occur with head coaches and general managers. This year the meetings were slated to take place in Palm Beach, Florida. They are officially canceled.
There are additional meetings slated for mid-May in Marina Del Ray, California. It's possible that much of the business that was to be conducted in Palm Beach could occur in California instead.
The players' deadline to vote on the proposed new collective bargaining agreement is on Saturday night at 11:59 p.m. EST. We'll know on Sunday if there will be labor peace for the next 10 years. This remains unchanged by coronavirus.
The official start of NFL free agency is scheduled for March 18 at 4:00 EST. The two-day "legal tampering" period, which is really the start of free agency, begins on March 16.
According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, the NFL could postpone free agency:
Per a league source, the NFL currently is contemplating the possibility of announcing on Sunday a delay in the start of free agency. The league wants to wait until after voting on the CBA closes before making a final decision, in order to prevent further delays to the CBA voting process.
With teams like the Eagles and others already having shut down their facilities, the bet here is that free agency will indeed be postponed. The ProFootballTalk story cites public "optics" as a primary reason why, but operationally, there will be additional challenges.
Yes, free agents and teams don't necessarily have to meet face-to-face to consummate deals, but with teams potentially not operating at 100 percent capacity as a result of facility shutdowns, the NFL is likely, in my view, to delay free agency.
And then there's the "fun factor" of free agency, which is essentially like a gift-receiving holiday for football fans, who are excited to learn about the players their team just signed. Conducting this event during one of the worst pandemics of the last century will certainly put a damper on it. It just makes sense to postpone it until some level of societal normalcy returns.
The draft is a little further out at the end of April, and so far, that is still a go. However, the NFL is considering contingency options, described here:
The draft is 41 days away, which might feel like a big enough cushion for America to push through this challenging time. Of course, we'll see if the country's leadership can eventually, you know, lead.