NFL teams are including clauses in contract negotiations with free agents to provide a measure of financial protection from complications related to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a report Thursday.
Coronavirus fears prompted the NFL to ban travel and teams to indefinitely shutter their facilities in recent days. As a result, free agent players have been largely unable to undergo mandated physicals, which are typically performed by team doctors.
With free agent travel in flux, a number of teams have put provisions in contract offers stating that players would forfeit their signing bonus if they fail their eventual physical, ESPN reported, citing league sources. In past seasons, physicals were required to finalize contracts.
As a workaround, the NFL is allowing teams to conduct physicals using independent doctors. Tom Brady is among the NFL free agents using this method as part of his contract negotiations with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN.
The coronavirus outbreak is expected to delay many free agents' contracts this offseason. NFL teams aren’t permitted to announce free agent signings until a physical is completed.
Since the NFL is in its offseason, the outbreak hasn’t interrupted league activities to the extent that it has in leagues that were forced to suspend play in recent days. However, the NFL did cancel its upcoming league meeting, scheduled for late March.
Additionally, the 2020 NFL Draft will take place in late April without fans in attendance. The event was originally scheduled to take place across several hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.