It’s an incredibly odd feeling, going through the month of March with so much radio silence in the sporting world. No NCAA tournament, no MLB, even delays for the PGA. If this isn’t March Madness, I’ve never seen it.
During this process, the NFL has continued to go about its business of preparing for the 2020 NFL season.
In that effort, the league reached an agreement with the NFLPA on a new collective bargaining agreement that will brings fans football for the next decade. There are some important changes that will affect fans and season ticket holds, including a move to a 17 game regular season, likely starting in 2021. In a corresponding move, the preseason will shrink from four games to three.
The league will immediately institute a 7 team playoff field for each conference, adding an extra playoff game for the AFC and NFC. This will result in only the top seed in each conference entering the playoffs with a bye while the other six teams fight it out for a chance to advance.
The active gameday rosters will expand from 46 to 48 players, including an eighth offensive lineman.
Practice squads will expand from 10 to 12 players immediately and to 14 players in 2022. Importantly, there is no longer a limitation on the number of years a player can remain on a practice squad. Practice squads will also allow players to move to the active roster and back to the practice squad without passing through waivers twice in a season and two practice squad players per week can be elevated to the active/inactive roster — increasing the size of this group to 54 or 55 players.
Also, a third player can now be designated-to-return from Injured Reserve each season.
The new CBA will also alter the treatment of positive marijuana tests, effectively reducing or eliminating suspensions based upon most positive tests.
LEAGUE YEAR STARTING ON TIME
With so many sports already delayed, there was a broad expectation that the NFL might be next. Teams have been unable to move forward with in-person visits with prospects and that has hampered the ability for teams to complete the final steps of their vetting process. Team headquarters have been emptied of all non-essential personnel, making it difficult to prepare for the ensuing free agency frenzy.
No matter, the NFL has chosen to move forward with the new year on Wednesday, March 18th. This means all players on expiring contracts will officially become free agents. It places a very short clock on the teams to sign their own free agents before other teams can lure them away.
In fact, it should be noted that the legal tampering period begins today. Meaning that all players who are currently on track to become free agents on Wednesday can enter into negotiations with other teams through their agents. It should also be noted that all teams must be under the 2020 salary cap prior to 4:00 PM ET on Wednesday — meaning final roster maneuvering will likely happen over the next 48 hours.
It is yet to be seen how Coronavirus will impacts the NFL Draft, scheduled to be held in Las Veras from April 23rd through April 25th. There have been a number of errant reports suggesting that the NFL will postpone the draft and perhaps even move it from Las Vegas altogether. To this point, no league source has confirmed any of the rumors and instead as maintained that things are still planned as normal for the time being.
Stay tuned for updates on the NFL Draft over the next week or two.
COLTS RE-SIGN ANTHONY CASTONZO
Shortly after the ratification of the new CBA, the Colts and Anthony Castonzo officially agreed to a two-year contract. This will pay Castonzo $33M over the next two seasons. It has been suggested that the length of the contract is not window dressing but that Castonzo intends to play at least two more years. If so, this is a huge boost to the Colts franchise heading into an important offseason.
More terms of the contract have been released, allowing us to now report that the first year is fully guaranteed at $17M and the second year is not guaranteed at $16M.