NFL year begins, but free agent deals remain unofficial for now

Free agent contracts and trades agreed upon in recent days or weeks won’t become official even as the NFL’s league year has begun Wednesday.

That also means free agents involved won’t be getting paid until those deals are signed and physicals are taken. The NFL has barred travel to team facilities by free agents and also has banned team personnel from traveling to meet with players as a safeguard against the new coronavirus.

Several people familiar with a memo the league sent to the 32 teams Tuesday night tell The Associated Press that while teams can announce reaching agreements with free agents or concluding trades, nothing is official. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public by the NFL or the teams.

Although information on dozens of contract agreements and a slew of trades has been leaked, teams were not allowed to complete the deals until the 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday start of the 2020 NFL business year. However, all of those transactions now come with the caveat that the signings and physicals need to occur.

Of course, if a club drafts a contract and sends it digitally to a player, he can sign it remotely and send it back to the team. Then teams must submit it to the league and that would constitute official signing. But few, if any, teams would be willing to do that without conducting a physical.

Those physicals can be conducted locally by players. Many teams have expressed being uncomfortable with such an arrangement.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Among the players moving in free agency in one of the busiest years of action are such stars as Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Jason Witten. While they certainly can afford to wait for everything to become official, it’s a strange dynamic in what, of course, is a strange time.

The NFL has delayed the offseason schedule of practices amid the uncertainty — meetings and organized team activities (OTAs) would have begun in April. Becoming familiar with new surroundings, teammates and coaching staffs for the likes of veterans Brady, Rivers and Witten — who collectively spent 52 years with their original teams — and the dozens of other players changing addressed must wait.