Written by Carlton Gilbert (Sport Writer) Since the ending of Super Bowl LIV, the National Football League has been focused on free agency and the upcoming NFL draft. These are two ways teams can get better before the upcoming season. A strong showing in free agency along with the draft can take a team to the Super Bowl by next season. For example the San Francisco 49ers were 4-12 in 2018 and went to the Super Bowl in 2019.
This year’s free agency was set to be unprecedented with players like Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees (three of the greatest quarterbacks of all time) set to be free agents. Tom Brady is the one player everyone is talking about. The buzz around his decision was all over the media. Will he go back to the Patriots or go somewhere else? However, the exciting free agent market came to a screeching halt when COVID19 took over all the headlines.
The NFL has been affected by this virus in many ways. Starting with free agency, teams have not been able or allowed to fly in free agents for visits or physicals. In my opinion, this has narrowed the market for some free agents because some of the lesser known players have not had as much interest due to the virus limiting onsite visits. The virus will also affect incoming rookies in the NFL draft because teams are not allowed to bring in the top thirty prospects to interview prior to the draft. This is a valuable tool used by organizations to fine tune who they want to draft and what round they want to draft them in.
The off season programs (OSP) also have been impacted. Every year teams that have new coaches are allowed to report with their players to the team facilities two-three weeks prior than other teams with existing coaching staffs. This allows the new coaching staff more time to implement their new systems. This situation becomes advantageous for teams that keep their coaching staff. Due to the virus, now all teams are locked out of their facilities minus rehab players until further notice as of March 25, 2020.
A third way for teams to get better in the off season is through trades. Usually trades in the NFL aren’t that big. However, in this off season there have been two high profile trades. DeAndre Hopkins was traded from the Houston Texans to the Arizona Cardinals. Now the Arizona Cardinals have a top five receiver paired with an offensive rookie of the year, Kyler Murray and the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald. This addition makes them very dangerous in the NFC West. The other big trade was the San Francisco 49ers trading DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the number thirteen overall pick. DeForest is one of the best defensive tackles in the league and the Colts were willing to make him the second highest paid defensive lineman in the NFL.
This off season also has been a little strange with Cam Newton and Jameis Winston, two former number one overall picks and Heisman Trophy winners both having been released and looking for new teams.
As of now, the NFL is in a holding pattern without knowing when the country can get back to normalcy. There is not a definite date when the NFL will resume typical activities. Will there be an off season program? Will this affect the health and safety of the players without having an off-season program? Will this be an advantage for teams in the playoffs last year because they played longer? Is it possible this downtime will become a trend in the NFL? Tom Brady has mentioned with today’s technology, there might not be as much need for off-season training at the team’s facility. Only time will tell.