NFL training camp starts in just under two months time, and the league is moving forward with plans on having full training camps. The league told teams they will be required to remain at their own facilities, which will preclude a host of teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers from traveling for camp as they regularly do.
The league is optimistic full training camps will occur, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. However, Fowler is hearing the NFL could move dates around and/or shorten the preseason to fit in camp. The financial value of preseason games to the owners is sufficiently limited that cutting back on it anyway has been a topic of conversation for some time.
The NFL has the most time of any major professional sport for figuring out its return from the Covid-19 pandemic. States are starting to re-open, and teams will likely be able to get training camp underway pretty close to on time as far as health and safety protocols are concerned. Where things get a little stickier is the economics.
The NFL could be looking at some amount of games without fans in the stands. It might not be every game through the season, but the early weeks will likely be without fans. That costs teams revenue, which in turn could impact how teams approach the salary cap. If revenues decline in 2020, that could result in a lower salary cap in 2021.
NFL Media reported on Tuesday that owners and the players’ union acknowledge there is a lot to be discussed amidst a potential revenue decline. The two sides could negotiate a salary reduction for players to flatten out what might otherwise be a dip in the cap in coming years. There is a minimum cash spend rule in the NFL CBA that is spread over multiple years, but nothing about a salary cap floor. Teams could decide based on circumstances that they will not negotiate lengthy extensions because of concerns about instability in revenues and the cap.
Players do have some leverage with no force majeure language in the CBA. That language would give owners the ability to unilaterally impose certain changes when an act of God strikes — like in a pandemic. On the other hand, owners can release players that don’t have significant guarantees on their contracts.
Any deal would likely include sacrifices on both sides, but as we’re seeing with Major League Baseball, it’s not so simple to come to a quick agreement. They’ve got two months to figure this out before we start seeing potential delays in the NFL start date.