NFL Fumbling Free Agency Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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Just because you can do some doesn’t mean you should.

While the world is shutting down around them in the midst of a pandemic, the NFL and NFLPA are apparently going to go on with the start of free agency and the new league year as planned.

That means that that teams must declare their franchise and transition tags before noon on Monday.

The so-called legalized tampering period then kicks off at noon, teams and agents then allowed to begin (continue?) negotiations on would-be multi-million-dollar deals.

Those pacts can then become official on Wednesday at 4 p.m., the same time that Tom Brady’s contract officially voids, pushing the G.O.A.T. to the open market for the first time in his 20-year NFL career.

Again, this is all happening while other sports leagues have completely shut down. Schools are closing for multiple weeks. Restaurants are only serving take-out. Uncertainty, anxiety and angst are the emotion of the land.

The idea of a 14-day countrywide shutdown and borderline martial law suddenly isn’t as farfetched as it sounds.

Even NFL franchises have somewhat shut down, most employees working from home.

Pre-draft scouting, pro days and prospect visits have been wiped out, many scouts working from home themselves in a dramatic shift smartly resulting from an almost unprecedented global health issue.

Yet the billion-dollar franchises, led by billionaire owners, are going on with business as usual with their millionaire players.

It’s a terrible idea.

And an even worse look.

According to ESPN, owners and teams were at least open to the possibility of pushing back the start of the new league year and free agency. It was, reportedly, the NFLPA that decisively pushed back against the idea shortly after the players narrowly approved the CBA extension.

Should players really be taking free agent visits with teams and facilities right now, even if they are on private planes and with limited personnel in attendance?

No!

Make no mistake, not all players or teams want to do all deals via FaceTime and without visits.

If some teams/players actively take part in free agent meetings while other teams/players take a more proactive, health-conscious approach and avoid them, does is create a situation of competitive advantage or imbalances?

Of course it does.

Then there is the question of -- to steal a term that’s become so popular in politics in recent years – optics.

The stock market is in the crapper.

Hourly employees across pro sports and all the way down through your waitress at the local watering hole are worried about their next paycheck and ability to survive.

But the cash-counting NFL and its players are going to capitalize on the vacuum of sports world content by, as some of so brazenly put it, “owning the sports world” this week?

Yippee!

Teams can brag about using their massive abundance of salary cap space to lure big-money athletes with an eye on 2020 success!

Players can bask in the media spotlight that comes with new contracts worth tens of millions of dollars!

Screw the concerns of our fans and consumers, let’s enjoy our moment in the spotlight even while so many are dealing with helpless feelings of uncertainty and anxiousness.

Maybe it was the players who pushed for this.

But it’s the entire world of football, including owners and teams, that’s going to look bad as a collective group.

Most of the country is living in a state of not being able to do what they want to do.

Would college, high school and youth athletes be on the field playing right now if allowed? Of course.

But experts, adults and leaders have stepped in to sideline them with an educated, reasonable eye on public health priorities and responsibilities.

The same should happen with NFL free agency. Somebody needs to be the adult here and step in. Somebody needs to come to their senses.

The NFL proceeding as scheduled with free agency is simply senseless.

Just because you can do some doesn’t mean you should.

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