We all know that there really isn’t an “offseason” in sports and that is especially true in the most popular one; football. Between free agency, the draft and training camp there is plenty of interest to go around. The NFL is now ensuring that to be the case as they are looking at tweaking their offseason calender, which would move free agency up and push the Draft back to May. Adam Schefter tweets the exact details, that would have the 2014 draft take place May 15-17, 2015 May 7-9th and 2016 May 5-7th. Free agency would move to the beginning of March and come before the Scouting Combine which would then move to mid-March.
With the new tentative schedule, the NFL pushes back this offseason period by about two weeks each year (next year is pushed back further to compensate for Mother’s Day). This not only gets them into about six weeks of the MLB season each year, but also into the 2nd round of the playoffs for the NHL and NBA each season. Here are some quick pros and cons for the new schedule:
-Moving up free agency forces teams to make decisions about guys earlier, since a lot of roster bonuses kick in 3, 5, 10 (ect.) days after the start of the league year.
-Also will take away some of the collusion charges that occur every year at the Scouting Combine between teams and agents.
-For college players moving the Combine and then subsequently Pro Days back a couple of weeks will give them more time to recover from injuries, which helps both the players draft stock and allows teams to make more informed decisions.
-Pushing the Combine and Pro Days (though these aren’t controlled by the league it will obviously occur), will allow playoff teams and especially the Super Bowl participants extra time to evaluate players before meeting them.
-Also this helps with having the draft later since these teams coaching staffs weren’t focused on college prospects. This also benefits new coaching staffs giving them some extra time to prepare for the draft.
-By pushing back the pre-draft events (most of them, this probably won’t change the All-Star games) and the draft, it could help assistants of some teams get hired. Currently you are almost punished if you wait to hire a coach until after the Championship week or after the Super Bowl.
-Earlier free agency is probably better for the Players as there would be over two months between the start of FA and the Draft. Currently that period of time was more like five to six weeks. That allowed some teams to wait till after the draft to find their bargains, but with two full months teams will probably make those decisions sooner.
-A later draft date should allow more rookies to participate in OTA’s and mini-camp, Drafted players can’t participate in OTA’s or mini-camp until after their class has graduated that year, which always leaves a portion of rookies unable to play with the rest of the rookies, putting them at a disadvantage. While this won’t fix it for everyone, it should at least help get a few more rookies ready to go for OTA’s.
-More money for everyone. Let’s be honest team websites, the league website and of course the NFL Network are are significant sources of revenue. Having a longer period of interest in free agency and draft related shows will only improve their rating and their revenue. Also, by now pushing the draft into May, which is a sweeps month the NFL can really charge a premium for their advertising. This past year in the vital 18-49 demo ESPN’s coverage led every network on Thursday night in terms of total demo for the night (and that doesn’t include the NFL Network coverage).
-Pushing back the Pro Days does force a lot of schools to have Pro Days in and around their finals weeks. While many of the players probably aren’t taking finals, it does cause distractions for the schools
-Pushing back the Pro Days will also impact when these football teams will have their spring games, not a big issue, but something to consider.
-Having the Combine after the start of free agency could be problematic, because it will create essentially a dead week of free agency as teams and agents will be in Indy, so while parameters will be negotiated free agent visits and signings will likely be on hold that week.
-Though for playoff teams fans there won’t be a much of a lull until free agency starts or the Combine, but for non-playoff teams especially those looking to build through the draft February could be a bit of a dead month.
-While for the majority of free agents the early start date and longer team between then and the draft is a positive, for some it will be a negative and will push their signings well into the summer.