With zero preseason games, undrafted rookies will hurt the most. But the NFL and NFLPA can help.
The NFL and NFLPA have come to an agreement to scrap all the preseason games this season due to the ongoing pandemic. What was originally cut to two, will now be none with extended training camps.
This is a win for the players in terms of player safety but this could be a huge loss for the undrafted rookie free agents. Without four chances to make a case for the roster, there might not be players like former Green Bay Packers Donald Driver, Tramon Williams or Sam Shields this year.
It’s a price players will have to pay in strange times. But there could be a way to rectify this situation.
Outside of zero preseason games and daily testing for the first weeks of camp, we don’t know many other details about the NFL’s plans on how they will handle the pandemic problem. There’s bound to be stipulations to help with the uncertain times, but what they are we do not know yet.
I for one hope the NFL institutes something similar to what MLB is doing and has some type of “taxi squad” with relaxed rules on player transactions.
We’ve heard rumors that the practice squad will be expanded, and I hope that is true, but the NFL will also need to relax the waiver rules so that teams can keep their own players.
For the 2020 season, teams were already allowed to expand the squad to 12 players, up from 10, because of the new collective bargaining agreement. That is thought to be able to expand a little further. But the NFL needs to take it a step further and let teams use players more liberally.
Unlike the MLB, NHL, and NBA, the NFL does not have a developmental league. Teams are forced to use limited roster space and practice squads to “hide” players. If teams want to bring a player up form the practice squad, they must make room with player cuts or injured reserve. Teams will make many of these transactions throughout the course of a season. But once the player returns from injury, another player is forced to lose their job without a guarantee they will end up back on the team’s practice squad.
This cuts short some players’ careers as they may get claimed off waivers by another team, forcing them to learn a whole new system in a short time, stunting their growth further.
Allowing teams a limited number of transactions to place players from the practice squad to the active roster and back, could help teams develop and keep players they have invested in.
A system like this will not only help with this season but beyond. Even if the practice squads aren’t expanded beyond the current number of 12, teams would still be able to use the practice squad like other leagues use their minor leagues.
The 2020 season will be the perfect time to experiment with new rules and set something up for future seasons.
Teams invest millions of dollars into players; why not give them a chance to get a better return from their investment?
The Packers could see more Tramon Williams, Donald Drivers, Sam Shields, and Allen Lazards as a result.
This might be an issue that has to wait for the next CBA, but showing it can work in the short term could give it momentum when that time comes.