NFL Covid Rules – Fantasy Impact
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
These are extraordinary times we are living in. As we all adapt to the hand that has be dealt, so must the NFL. I have assembled, from various sources, the current information regarding the NFL and the NFLPA handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
It appears the amendment to the CBA has been signed. I will continue to update this post as the information is provided.
The scope of the changes for the 2020 season gets deep in the CBA weeds at times. I will do my best to only address the fantasy relevant items.
There will be no preseason games played during the 2020 season.
This is crushing to all fantasy formats. So much information is gleaned from these games; it will massively impact analysis on rookies and young players. For teams with new coaches, preseason can help determine the starters and scheme when the new coaches come aboard. RIP Preseason DFS, see you in 2021.
The salary cap structure has been agreed upon via an CBA amendment between the NFLPA and the NFL. The salary cap changes are interesting. The NFL will spread the impact of any 2020 revenue reduction due to the pandemic over four years. This change will start in 2021. The current salary cap of $198.2 million remains unchanged. The 2021 salary cap will be at least $175 million.
The reduction in salary cap will effect the FA class of 2021. This may have a huge impact. I would not anticipate as many big contracts in 2021. There may be less player movement. You may even see several short-term contracts as players try to cash-in in 2022. Cash strapped teams might even play it cheap and spend very little to recoup the losses. See my 2021 free agent class overview https://officialcutpod.wordpress.com/2020/06/12/dynasty-2021-free-agent-targets/
Rosters must be at 80 players by Aug 16. Rosters can be a maximum of 90, but teams cant have more than 80 in the building at one time. I am not sure why this distinction was made, it seems silly, but its part of the agreement. I believe that most teams are at or around 80.
320 players will not get a shot at making an NFL roster this year. This is really devestating for the players. For fantasy purposes, there are probably only 10 or so that would make an NFL roster and even fewer would impact fantasy. This is probably less of a big deal that it appears to be.
There are two classifications on opt outs. “High-risk” and “player” opt-outs. High-risk refers to underlying medical conditions that makes Covid-19 more dangerous for that individual. This also applies to someone living with the player. For instance, if a players mom lived with him and was high risk, the player would fall into this category. Players in the high-risk opt-out category will get an accrued season. High-risk opt-outs also get an higher salary stipend.
The player opt-out is just a player that doesn’t want to take the risk of playing in this environment in 2020. Players who opt-out will have their contracts toll. This means they will play the 2021 season under their 2020 contract. The player opt-outs get a lower stipend and will not get an accrued season. This is not insignificant. Accrued seasons matter in terms of NFL pension, practice squad eligibility and certain types of free agency for the players. The final date for opt-outs will be Thursday August 6th as the final documents between the two parties have been finalized and signed. Once a player opts out, he is done for the season. The only caveat to that is if the player becomes high-risk through a new diagnosis or a family member becomes seriously ill because of Covid -19.
Obviously enough, the players that opt-out wont play in 2020. For dynasty players, the tolling of the contracts will matter, as a player set to be a FA in 2020 will now play 2021 under that year. You may want to consider if it’s worth holding on to a back-end roster player to has this situation like this occurring.
Covid list/IR list
This new distinction is what you would expect, but there are some subtleties that exist that should be understood. The Covid list is not just for players that have Covid-19, it is also for players that have potentially been exposed to Covid-19. Players have to pass the Covid-19 testing protocols in order to return to the team. The IR/Covid list is unlimited for the team.
From a fantasy player perspective there is impact, however unlike the normal IR list, there will be more player movement. Following your team and the league very closely is imperative this year. In-season management will be a key to winning your league in 2020.
From a fantasy league perspective, increased or unlimited IR spots will be necessary in order to conduct a successful season.
The practice squad is now 16 players. The 2020 squad consists of 10 regular practice squad players following the normal rules and also 6 veterans. Adding the veterans is a major change in how the practice squad has operated previously. Additionally, teams can now protect four practice squad players from being picked up by others teams. Another change includes allowing teams to promote a practice squad player to fill a roster spot and then return that player to the practice squad without waivers. Because of the testing protocols regarding bringing in outside players, I don’t see as many teams poaching talent from other teams as usual. Teams will now be able to bring up a Practice squad player 90 min before game time.
Rosters are now effectively 69 players (nice). Depending on how deep your leagues and teams are, you will need to know who is on these squads and earmark them. I am certain fantasy players will be dipping into this pool of players at least a few times this year. This will create even more intrigue in DFS. With the ability to bring up players 90 min before game time, watching the wire for updates will be even more crucial to fantasy success in 2020.
If there is a state lock down, it may be possible to allow a team to move to another state temporarily to train and play its games. There are a million logistically issues with doing something like this in a tight timeframe, but its good the NFL is exploring these options
There are now less padded practices, only 14. Two less than usual.
Players will not be allowed to enter their team’s building before passing three COVID-19 tests that are administered within a four-day period. This might not seem problematic, but if a team is trying to bring in a street free agent or a player off another teams practice squad, it will really complicate matters. Any players in this situation will most likely have no impact the week they are acquired. Players will be fined $50,000 for refusing a Cover-19 test.
Refusal to wear mask, PPE or tracking device, or maintain social distancing during team travel: discipline up to $14,650
There is testing every day for all players, coaches and staff. At the end of the first two weeks if the positive test rate is below 5 percent for all of the team’s personnel, that team’s testing will then be every other day.
Players and team personnel who engage behavior that could lead to coronavirus exposure are subject to discipline from the league
Information complied from reports and information from:
Tony Pauline, Judy Battista, Tom Pellissero, Ian Rapoport, the NFL and the NFLPA
Wear a mask.