Ever since the coronavirus pandemic took center stage in American life in mid-March, the Kansas City Chiefs — along with the rest of the NFL’s teams — have been prohibited from bringing in players for tryouts.
Unsurprisingly, this has had a significant impact on the offseason. Prime free agents like quarterback Cam Newton, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive back Logan Ryan — and many other less-famous athletes — were unable to get the deals they probably could have obtained in a normal free-agent market.
But that has now changed. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero has reported that the NFL is once again allowing free-agent visits — albeit with many restrictions.
Under the new rules, a typical free-agent visit will now become a three-day affair. Upon arrival in host franchise’s city, they must receive a COVID-19 test in the team’s testing facility. If the test is negative, they will return on the second day for another test. If this second test is also negative, they can return on the third day for their workout and meetings — but cannot enter the team facility until they have received a third test.
The only exceptions for this three-day routine will be for players who been undergoing daily testing as a member of another NFL team — for example, a player who has just cleared waivers (or has just been given an outright release) from another squad.
Teams will be limited to no more than no more than eight workouts per day — although the restrictive rules might make it pretty difficult to do more than a few each day anyway — and team officials must wear the usual protective equipment and maintain social distancing during the workouts.
To be sure, this promises to be a slow, awkward process — but like so many things to which we’ve become accustomed during this extraordinary time, it’s better than nothing.
But will the Chiefs go to the trouble of hosting any visits?
Primarily because of the decisions Chiefs players Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Damien Williams and Lucas Niang made to opt out of the 2020 season, the team has more salary-cap room than we might have expected; we currently estimate the team has between $10.7 and $11 million in cap space for 2020.
So it would be easy to suggest the Chiefs should go after a premium free agent.
But this offseason is also unique because of the uncertainty of the 2021 salary cap. Although the league and the NFL Players Association have agreed that next season’s total cap will be no less than $175 million, it now seems unlikely it will be much (if any) above that figure. As players who opted-out return next season, most of the new cap dollars will simply move to next season — and before any of this happened, the Chiefs were hardly in an ideal position for next year; according to Spotrac, just 47 players are under contract for 2021, already totaling around $200 million in salary-cap obligations.
It all adds up to a pretty strong incentive for the Chiefs to hang on to as much of their salary-cap money as possible. To be sure, it will be hard to get through the season without spending any of it — things always change as an NFL season unfolds, and there’s likely to be more change in 2020 than we’ve ever seen before — but under these circumstances, it’s hard to see how a big-name free-agent signing makes sense for the team.