Could NFL teams back out on free agent agreements after the draft?
The NFL has been determined to not alter its offseason calendar despite the coronavirus outbreak, but that does not mean the league has been unaffected by the pandemic. For example, many free agents have agreed to contracts with teams but been unable to actually sign them. By nature, that has left those free agents vulnerable to having the rug pulled out from under them.
As ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes, many free agents may not sign their contracts until after the NFL Draft later this month. Should a team address a need in the draft that it already addressed by agreeing to a deal with a free agent, that team could, in theory, back out of its agreement with the veteran player.
A point multiple teams now have raised: Free agents that don't have signed contracts by the draft – and many don't – could put themselves in jeopardy. If a team drafts a player at a certain position, it always could rescind any agreement it had with a free agent. Different times.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 31, 2020
While that is technically possible, we can’t imagine any team is going to do it. A stunt like that would essentially be taking advantage of a pandemic, let alone backing out of a verbal agreement that should be as binding as a written agreement. The NFL chose to go through with its free agency period despite the limitations created by the coronavirus outbreak. That should not create an opportunity for teams to back out of agreements if they find a better option down the road.
We’ve already seen teams using some very unique tactics to gather information on draft prospects, and there will be plenty of other complications going forward. Teams potentially backing out of contract agreements should not be something players need to concern themselves with.