While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to starve sports fans of action and creates chaos for every league, the NFL has been able to size up the situation in the most fortunate of circumstances. The NBA and NHL cut their seasons short because of the virus, and the MLB was full steam ahead with the beginning of their 2020 season before it was shut down due to coronavirus concerns. The NFL finished their season just three months ago, and we’ve only just reached the summer hot spot where multiple free agents and trades are getting going, but no balls will be thrown for a little while longer. Roger Goodell and the NFL have the luxury of sitting back and analyzing the months to come, pondering the possibility of isolating the league in one, healthy place to finally give the fans some sports. 

While confidence is high for Goodell and the league, there are still many offseason problems to solve. 

The first being the new online, “Digital” 2020 NFL draft. Much to the displeasure of the fans, the media and even GM’s, the Goodell has decided to carry forth this year’s draft online. There aren’t many further details as to what platform(s) they plan to use, but it has proved to be worrisome for those who plan to both tune in, and those who have a role in making the draft run smoothly. There has been plenty of skepticism about owner’s and coaches abilities to function with the technology necessary for the online draft, however, many people also believe that grown men worth billions of dollars should be able to understand the basic tech. 

The most pressing of draft issues for NFL war rooms across the nation does not simply come from making a Zoom or FaceTime pick of a primetime college player, but after the draft, as teams negotiate and load up on undrafted free agents. Considering that important pieces of the staff room will be in different locations, the hectic period at the end of the draft, signing undrafted free agents, will only be more complex. 


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While these complications will inconvenience NFL staff rooms, they will truly be just that, an inconvenience. There are much bigger issues at hand for the league, more focused around money and pay for players. 

The two issues come from the money paid from teams to players, which is negotiated by the NFLPA and the league, and then the individual money and contracts negotiated by teams and agents. The NFL recently released their “virtual period” protocol, which will start on April 20, so there will be significantly more details to follow around that time. 

First, there are workout per diems, which the new CBA designates $235 for daily workouts as part of the offseason workout programs. These programs last about eight weeks, starting from in-class instruction to OTA’s. That $235 continues on to tally about $7,500, and while the importance of that sum varies in importance from vets to first and second year players, many of the younger players on the team can only be sure of receiving that program money this offseason. 

Last week, the NFLPA sent out a memo with do’s and don’ts for the beginning of the offseason workout programs, however, they stated that the offseason has not officially started, therefore, no players can be paid. While the rules are changing due to COVID-19, for now, no money will be moving around.

Second, there is the issue of workout bonuses. Aside from the negotiated per diems, many players’ contracts include bonuses for their participation in scheduled team workouts. This tactic originated with the Green Bay Packers, as they searched for ways to get their players working out together, rather than players training in more desirable, off-season locations like California and Florida. At first, the movement was slow and there was significant push-back, however in 2020, there are workout bonuses valued up to $750,000. 

In the larger scope of things, the amount of money up in the air is vast for the coming offseason, looking at around $56 million – with $20 million of that coming from the sum of the per diems, and $36 million coming from the workout bonuses. Obviously the question on players and staff minds alike is whether that will be paid, but right now, the money is staying in the organizations’ pockets. 

There will certainly be bigger issues in the coming weeks and months for the NFL, and while $56 million may not be a large dent in the pocket of the league, it is quite important to most players and their income. No team or league for that matter was preparing contracts with a global pandemic in mind, and while some teams may want to hold that money since players are not officially on the teams premises, it’s rather unfair to starve them of their workout money, especially when they are training, just in another location. As the weeks continue, we will be able to see this conflict unfold further, and while the NFL adapts the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic, fans can only hope to see 11 on 11 come that first Sunday. 

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