Although the NFL is expected to use many of the same protocols it did during the COVID-19-altered 2020 offseason, the league will make it easier on non-big-ticket free agents this year. As of now, the NFL is expected to allow free agents to visit teams’ facilities, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. With the pandemic hitting just as free agency began last year, the NFL banned free agents from making visits. Physicals for players who agreed to deals were a no-go as well, making contracts trickier to finalize than usual. Multiple players who agreed to deals early — Michael Brockers and Darqueze Dennard, to name two — saw teams back out of agreements. Both visits and physicals are currently allowed, per Florio, who adds free agents must pass a rapid PCR coronavirus test before entering any team’s facility. This would open the door to players with injury questions working out for teams. This sect of free agents being unable to do so last year led to months-long delays, with several UFAs signing just before training camp or after camps began.
Here is the latest on the offseason front:
- On the draft front, the top evaluation event — the NFL Scouting Combine — did not occur this year. And for the second straight offseason, draft prospects will not be permitted to make visits to team facilities. (Though, a few did so early last offseason.) Prior to 2020, teams could bring in 30 prospects for visits. This year, no limitations exist regarding how many prospects teams can meet with virtually, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. However, teams are limited to five virtual interviews per prospect.
- Earlier this year, Roger Goodell confirmed the 2021 offseason would look similar to 2020’s. But even when the NFL can return to its more traditional offseason and in-season setup, the commissioner indicated virtual meetings will continue to play a major role. “Virtual meetings have now become standard in the NFL,” Goodell said this week, via The Associated Press’ Barry Wilner. “We are not going to have as much (in-person) meetings when we get back.”
- Several high-profile players are being shopped, and more big names figure to become cap casualties soon in an offseason expected to feature a steep salary cap reduction — one that could see it plummet from $198MM to $180MM. But NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith envisions the league’s cap growth returning in 2022, via CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter). This year’s cap has yet to be determined, but with greater attendance likely in 2021 and new TV deals expected soon, there should be no threat of the cap dropping or plateauing come 2022. We will gain a clearer picture of the cap’s future once this year’s figure emerges, but teams may have a greater appetite for restructures that push more money onto future caps. And extensive backloading of free agents’ deals figures to commence.