NFL Franchises Inserting COVID-19 Clauses in Free Agency Contracts?

Updated On Mar 23, 2020 by Landon Wheeler

National Football LeagueReports have surfaced that are number of National Football League (NFL) franchises are reportedly now inserting COVID-19 related clauses in the free agency contracts, a fact that is upsetting a number of players.

According to an insider source, NFL teams are now adding provisions to player contracts stating that failing a physical exam would prevent them from collecting any signing bonus money.

The supposed reason for this is because NFL teams currently cannot supervise physicals because of COVID-related travel restrictions.

The issue for players is that physical exams in the NFL are most likely going to be delayed substantially by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced a number of team facilities to close down indefinitely.

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Bonus Conditions Up to the Teams

An NFL official denied that such a clause is illegal; stating that it is the teams’ prerogative to create conditions to certain bonuses, and it is the player’s prerogative to refuse signing if they disagree with those conditions.

It is still unclear how stringently teams are going to enforce this controversial clause, which means players could be worrying over nothing in the short-term. However, some industry observers worry that there can be long-term issues in such clauses. They recommend that the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFPA) create standard contract language that represents both sides of the issue to prevent acrimonious contract disputes in the future.

In previous years, a physical was required to close a deal. This year, however, many players are inking their contracts and wishing it will work out in the end.

Teams Still Adjusting to a New Kind of Free Agency

The NFL has given its teams leeway to conduct a physical exam with their own doctor and medical team. One such team who took this path is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with their recent signing of the superstar Tom Brady. Brady’s is set to receive his physical examination in New York, where he lives.

Many NFL teams are still trying to adjust to a free agency period that is drastically different to previous years. The league year started at ET 4:00 PM on 18 March and during that time, the protocol was for teams to announce contract agreements after a player’s signing and passing a physical.

The new protocol is for NFL teams to announce any of their transactions if both parties agree to the contract terms and a written contract has already been sent to a player and agent.

Last week we reported the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement which will make sweeping changes to professional football.

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