The Giants and Jets are sitting on $150 million in salary cap space as they get ready to rebuild their struggling teams. And they will be free to start doing that on Monday afternoon.
The free-agent negotiating window is still scheduled to open at noon on Monday, and the NFL has said it has "no plans" to change that. But plans can change quickly, and often have during the first, frenzied days of the coronavirus pandemic. And several NFL agents and league insiders have told SNY there seems to be at least a possibility of a delay.
In fact, according to a report on ProFootballTalk.com on Thursday night, the league is considering announcing a delay on Sunday, one day after the NFL Players Association votes on the latest collective bargaining agreement proposal. According to the report, the NFL first wants to make sure there are no further delays in CBA voting before they alter the league's offseason plans.
The reason for a potential delay is not about logistics, but about optics, according to NFL sources. There is some concern that the NFL will look "tone deaf," as one agent put it, spending a few days basking in the news of billions of dollars being extravagantly spent on players while the coronavirus is spreading and people are hurting physically and financially.
"There's no way around it. We have to do business at some point," said one agent, who added it won't hurt the NFL to wait "a couple weeks."
There's certainly precedent for waiting. In 2011, NFL owners locked out players from March through July in a dispute over the CBA. When the lockout ended, the free-agent signing period began in July, just as training camps were opening. It was chaotic at the time, but it worked. And this time, presumably, any delay would likely only be a week or two, perhaps to give everyone a chance to calm their nerves and adjust to a new way of doing business, with many NFL staffs now working from home.
The NFL did not respond to a request for comment, but for now there is no change to their timeline. Teams have until 11:59 a.m. ET on Monday to use the franchise and/or transition tags - a decision the Giants are facing with Leonard Williams - and then at noon they can begin talking contracts with unrestricted free agents.
The official signing period, along with the official start of the new league year, then opens on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. Again, at least for now.