Since February there has been talk that the NFL was fully engaged in brainstorming to alter its annual calendar. The primary league goal, it seemed, was to slot a major event into every month of the year if possible.
Ya know, to create 24-7-365 buzz. More so than already exists.
Initially, the chatter centered around pushing several major events back a month – moving the scouting combine to March, the opening of free agency into April and the draft into May. And while two of those three moves may still happen, a report this afternoon from ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicates that the opening of free agency may ultimately leapfrog the combine on the league calendar.
According to Schefter, the league and the NFL Players Association are hammering out the details on the schedule change with the union “close to signing off” on a proposal that would move the draft into May for at least the next three years.
Media-wise, that would provide another month or so to spin in circles with endless pre-draft analysis and 11 or 12 versions of every expert’s mock drafts. And who doesn’t want more of that?
More significantly, however, would be the flip-flopping of the combine and free agency, an interesting move that would change the dynamics between teams and agents in the offseason -- if it happens.
At present, agents are allowed to connect with team representatives at the combine in Indianapolis, legally able to discuss upcoming unrestricted free agents still under contract with that specific team. If the new change is adopted, free agency will already have opened by the time those combine meetings take place.
Which would then heighten the significance of the 3.5-day courting window that the league installed this March as a sort of cocktail hour ice-breaking period before free agency begins.
So essentially we could be looking at a situation as early as 2015 where the Super Bowl will end in early February, the start of free agency and the new league year will come in either late February or early March, the combine will be in March and the draft will be in May.
The obvious question that still needs answering: What in the world would anyone do in April?
Perhaps even more importantly for teams, opening free agency before organizations have the opportunity to watch, analyze and fully engage with prospects at the combine may change the way decisions are made to upgrade the roster. With less opportunity to become more comfortable with college prospects, we could be headed down a road where teams find themselves giving veteran free agents a longer look in free agency than they might otherwise have.
UPDATE: According to a new Tweet from Schefter, the draft moving to May would happen next year with the combine-free agency flip-flop.
Proposed new league year would start before combine in 2015 and 2016. Change of draft to May effective in 2014.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 20, 2013
An NFL spokesman has told the Star Tribune that there has been no official decision on moving the draft into May but that the need to change the date of next year's draft surfaced due to a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall. There will be no change in the start of free agency or the combine in 2014. But the league is exploring things beyond that.
At present, the re-scheduling of the 2014 draft may be slated for May 7-9.
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