In the middle of the weirdest NFL season comes the weirdest NFL trading deadline, which is 4pm on Tuesday. ET and, like everything else this year, tainted with the unprecedented.
Example: This week, an NFL head coach told me that one of the questions asked in his front office about potential trade acquisitions was "Has he had COVID?" – and that the preferred answer is yes.
Due to the league's COVID-19 testing protocols, it is extremely unlikely that a player acquired in a trade will be able to play in the week it was acquired. A player coming from another team will usually have to undergo a full set of COVID-19 tests by their new team before they can enter the building. That means five consecutive days of negative tests and then a negative point-of-care test on the morning of the sixth day. So if a team trades against a player on Tuesday and their first test after the trade takes place on Wednesday, they cannot enter the building until Monday at the earliest. Basically, it cannot be used in a game for two weeks after its purchase.
Unless … he has already tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a league and players union (NFLPA) change made in August, any player or other team employee who tests positive will be exempt from testing for the next 90 days. This rule is in line with CDC guidelines indicating three months of immunity for previously infected COVID-19 patients. When the Titans exchanged linebacker Kamalei Correa for the Jaguars on October 14, he was able to play in the Jaguars' game on October 18. Correa had tested positive for COVID-19 on the Titans so did not have to go through entry screening procedures upon arrival in Jacksonville.
(To be clear, people exempted from testing due to a previous positive test are still required to wear masks in the team facility and follow all other COVID-19-related protocols. They only need not be tested for 90 days.)
And so, while thinking about a potential trade, a coach might ask his general manager if the trade target tested positive. And if the answer is yes, trading could become more attractive. The teams would get the player for one game more than if the answer were no.
As you'd expect, this isn't the only reason this year's trading deadline is different. Four more:
A team's salary cap range for 2020 may not be what it appears to be
This year's salary cap is $ 198.2 million per team. But the salary cap is tied to league revenue, and the pandemic is likely to weigh on league revenue in 2020. A canceled preseason, games played in empty stadiums – the NFL predicts lost revenue that will cause the cap to drop for 2021. The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to set a cap of $ 175 million per team for next year's cap, which means it can't go below that. But the teams are budgeting for that number, which is nearly a 12% decrease from this season, and budgeting that isn't easy.
One thing that makes it easier is that teams are allowed to roll over the salary cap from one year to the next. (This is always the case; it's not a 2020-2021 rule specific to COVID-19.) This year, this rollover space is more precious than ever and is being protected by the teams. Where in the past a Go-for-It team might have made a trade for a high salary player by the deadline, this year it is less likely.
The Bengals traded Carlos Dunlap, who had 17 sacks in Cincy in 2018/19, for the Seahawks earlier this week. Jamie Sabau / Getty Images
"You won't see people doing bigger business," a team manager said this week. "When a team is in win-now mode and just one player away, they might say, 'We have enough room for the cap, the cap will go up next year, let's do it. " But this year the teams are being much more careful about it. "
The Bengals sent the defensive end Carlos Dunlap to the Pass-Rush-needy Seahawks on Wednesday. Dunlap still has roughly $ 4.1 million in salary for the year, but Seattle has made up some of that by hiring offensive lineman B.J. Finney sent back. Finney still has $ 1.3 million in salary. The Seahawks only ended up costing about $ 2.8 million instead of the full $ 4.1 million.
Depth is more important
A team leader told me that teams have "hoarded" offensive and defensive linemen that might otherwise be available in stores, fearing that they could run out of positions within position groups due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Last week the Raiders' entire offensive line had to be isolated after one of them tested positive. This week the giants are in a similar situation. The expanded exercise groups this year – up to 16 players – are due to both the new CBA and the pandemic. However, teams are cautious about entering games in positions with high injury rates in the game with no backup.
Are Teams Sure They Are Sellers?
At this point in the season, teams generally have an idea of whether they are still in the playoff race. However, this is the first year that the playoffs have expanded to seven teams per conference. There is all kinds of data out there telling the teams what their chances of making the playoffs are if their record is 4-3 or 4-4 or 3-4 or whatever. However, all this data was based on a system in which six teams are represented. Conference made the playoffs.
Obviously, a team with three wins in week 9 could have better chances of making the playoffs than they did a year ago. And that could make said team reluctant to sell players to competitors who are higher overall.
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A week ago the feeling in the league due to the six day entry testing process was that most of the trades would be done that week so the teams could put their new players on in time for week 9. Weekly activities weren't up to the level many expected, and by the end of the week it was clear that some teams were waiting to see what happened that weekend before deciding what to do.
For example, one of the most closely watched teams are the patriots. A win in Buffalo on Sunday would improve them to 3-4, a game and a half behind top-ranked bills with a head-to-head win. But a loss would drop the Patriots to 2-5, three and a half games from first place behind a team that has already beaten them. Drastically different circumstances. Several teams watch to see if the patriots are selling veterans of their defense. They may have to wait for the answer until Sunday evening.
Why is it election day?
Correct? After all the work the NFL has done on its voting initiatives over the past few months, isn't it strange that one of the potentially biggest news days of the season coincides with the day people are supposed to vote? A day when the thoughts of the entire nation will be on far more important matters?
When the season started, the league had no choice. The trading period usually ends on the Tuesday after the 8th week has ended. Postponing a week earlier or later would require a vote by the teams and this is no small issue. The league doesn't want to move the deadline any earlier as it wants to give the season time to rest and use the leaderboard to let the teams know whether they should be buyers or sellers. And while some have suggested postponing it later – especially now that seven teams per conference make the playoffs and, in theory, teams could stay in competition longer than in previous years – that idea still doesn't have the support it needs.
Domonique Foxworth believes the only team that makes sense to act for Ryan Fitzpatrick are the Browns, while Ryan Clark says the Dolphins are better off sticking with him.
So why not Monday or Wednesday? Well, there's a game on Monday which means it's 4pm. The ET deadline would fall four hours before the start of the game on Week 8 of the Buccaneers and Giants. That doesn't make a lot of sense.
Postponing it to Wednesday would create an odd situation that could force teams to pay players who are no longer on their rosters. Every week of the season, Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET is an important deadline as a player who is on a team's roster after that time will have to be paid by that team for the following week's game (or goodbye). So if the trading deadline were postponed to Wednesday and the Chiefs swapped Patrick Mahomes for the Jets on Wednesday, for example, the Chiefs would still have to pay Mahomes for week 9 even though he was no longer on their team.