With other professional, collegiate, and amateur sports leagues and organizations cancelling events or holding them without a fanbase in the seats due to concerns over the worldwide spread of COVID-19, the National Football League and NFLPA had to re-enter negotiations on Sunday after the announcement that the ratified CBA had passed. This time, the two organizations had to address concerns over whether they should hold to their schedule for the kickoff of the league year or delay it just as teams entered their (tongue-in-cheek) 'legal tampering' period ahead of the official beginning of free agency 2020 on March 18.
Reasons why this has become the expectation as day has progressed, based on conversations I've had with people familiar:
1. Free agency isn't a spectator event with large crowds.
2. Deals can be done without visits.
3. What if they push it back two weeks and things get worse? https://t.co/M1iVK4vuYD
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 15, 2020
Monday signals the period where NFL teams begin contacting free agent players and start looking over potential contract negotiations ahead of the official start of 2020's free agency period on Wednesday. Monday is also the last day for teams to place a franchise or transition tag on a player; teams can no longer use both tags due to the new CBA.
With so much speculation, the NFL had to send official memos to teams that they were moving forward.
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
Sunday was eventful after some 2020 offseason league business such as the Annual League Meeting was cancelled and the process on how teams scouted prospects for the 20202 NFL Draft was affected due to college campus precautions due to the COVID-19 virus and several pro days being cancelled or delayed.
NFL Player's Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, however, issued an "open letter" after the proposed CBA votes were finalized amidst new representatives (including new President, J.C. Tretter) stepping onto the committee as the debate over the proposed new agreement was hotly divided. In the letter, Smith shared what he felt was the biggest benefits to the agreement passing, including the increase in wages, earnings, benefits, and working conditions of players in the National Football League as well as items that will benefit former players. He also recognized the level of discontent held by many over language and expectations in the agreement.
"Please be confident that I hear - loudly and clearly - those of you who have passionately expressed their perspective that these gains are not enough when weighed against, for example, adding another game," Smith wrote. "It is our job and duty to produce the best options for our members. It is also my personal choice to be brutally honest with you about the decisions we make and the profound difficulty inherent in making them."
An open letter. pic.twitter.com/lBNmQ6ZMo7
— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) March 15, 2020
Many in the industry agree that a "no" vote might have signalled an end to Smith's long tenure as the head of the NFLPA.
The CBA did contain language that seems to indicate that players, the union, and the National Football League share concerns over how a worldwide epidemic might affect work versus work-stoppage and how that would, in turn, affect players and organizations.
So, as the world continues to turn, NFL fans can count - at least for now - on professional football moving forward on a new track and the frenzy of free agency to entertain.