While the sports world has come to a halt due to the Coronavirus pandemic, pro football is more or less conducting its business as usual. While pro day travel schedules have been altered and teams have asked their non-essential personnel to work from home, the league still continues to prepare for the beginning of the new league year on Wednesday, March 18, in its usual manner — something that was recently reaffirmed by the NFL.
The league office sent a memo to all 32 member clubs on Sunday to confirm that the schedule will remain unchanged for the next few days and that free agency and the 2020 league year will start as planned on Wednesday:
- March 16, 11:59 a.m. ET: Franchise/transition tag window closes
- March 16, 12:00 p.m. ET: Legal tampering period opens
- March 18, 4:00 p.m. ET: 2020 league year/free agency begins
Even though there have been inquiries by numerous teams about potential pushing the new league year back in light of what has been declared a national health emergency, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have apparently not identified a reason to make any altercations to the schedule. While procedural challenges may await teams when it comes to the actually signings of contracts as well as physicals before that, free agency will be underway soon.
For the New England Patriots, this means that a) COVID-19 might prevent them from working out free agents before bringing them on board, and b) the team has only two more days to strike a deal with quarterback Tom Brady before his full $13.5 million signing bonus proration impacts a salary cap situation that can already be described as difficult (New England enters Monday with only around $19.5 million available, according to Miguel Benzan).
Of course, the whole situation remains fluid as the league and its player representatives are expected to meet Monday morning to resume talks about potentially altering the start of the 2020 league year. For now, however, everything remains in place.