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COVID-19 updates: Salary cap, practice squad, IR changes, more

A number of COVID-19-related changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement were settled Monday night. Because they are important to note in this unprecedented NFL season, let’s go through how some of them impact the New York Giants and the rest of the NFL.

Salary cap change

NFL Network league insider Tom Pelissero reported that teams with players opting out will get an additional salary cap bump. That is because, per Pelissero, pro-rated signing bonuses will be removed from the cap as well as unearned salary and bonuses.

In the case of the Giants, Over the Cap shows that Solder was given a $23.5 million signing bonus pro-rated over the four years of his deal. The pro-rated portion of the bonus for 2020 would have been, per OTC, $6.5 million. That means that if that number is correct the Giants would get $6.5 million added to the $16.604 million the NFLPA public salary cap report shows them having as of Tuesday morning.

Would they spend some of that money on a free-agent center like Justin Britt or a cornerback like Logan Ryan? Perhaps, but, as I opined recently, with the salary cap perhaps dropping as low as $175 million next season from this year’s $198.2 million perhaps it makes sense to hold on to as much cap space as possible to increase flexibility during the 2021 offseason.

Practice squad update

The league and NFLPA have agreed, again per Pelissero’s Twitter account, on a number of changes. Those include:

  • 16-man practice squad (up to six with no limit on accrued seasons)
  • Protect up to four practice squad members each Tuesday, meaning other teams cannot poach them for their active rosters.

We had previously heard about those changes, but they are now official.

  • Another agreed upon change is that teams will be allowed to elevate players from the practice squad up to 90 minutes before kickoff in the event a player is quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19 the morning of or night before a game.

How teams structure their practice squads this season is going to be fascinating.

Injured reserve changes

Pelissero, the go-to source for everything related to the CBA changes, noted that beginning at 4 p.m. ET on Sept. 6 teams will be able to bring an unlimited number of players back from injured reserve once they have been on that list for at least three weeks.

This is, of course, related to COVID-19 and fielding the strongest possible rosters. It is, however, a change I have long called for and hope becomes permanent. I have long believed that it is a travesty that a capable NFL player who belongs in the league gets placed on season-ending IR with a short-term injury and cannot return in mid- or late-season when healthy. Meanwhile, teams scramble over the final few weeks to sign street free agents who probably don’t belong on NFL fields.

A bubble without a bubble

The league and NFLPA have settled on what will be considered “High-Risk COVID-19” conduct that will make players subject to suspensions and fines.

Per NFL.com, high-risk conduct includes:

  • Going to an indoor night club unless wearing PPE and there are no more than 10 people in attendance.
  • Going to an indoor bar (unless picking up food) unless wearing PPE and there are no more than 10 people there.
  • House parties of 15 or more people unless the player and all guests wearing masks or where social distancing is impossible.
  • Attending indoor concerts or entertainment.

Players are going to have to be disciplined. We have seen what happens in Major League Baseball with outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals when safety protocols are not followed.

Giants coach Joe Judge addressed this need for discipline during a recent videoconference:

“We’re going to have to make some more sacrifices, whether that’s socially away from the game, how we interact with friends and family members throughout this season. But we have to make the right decisions. The biggest thing is everyone has to understand that all of our decisions directly impact each other. It’s not fair for me to go out and do something and put myself at risk and come in here and get players sick. That’s not my right. I’m not entitled to do that. We have to all make the right decisions, both in the building following the protocols and away from the building. I think ultimately as a league, we just need to trust that the plan in place that the league put, make sure we adhere to the protocols, make sure we wear the PPEs. Let’s be careful, let’s be cautious, but we can operate aggressively if we just follow the plan in place.”

Opt-outs

The league has finalized the deadline for opting out as Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. There are two exceptions:

  • A player gets a new diagnosis that he has a high-risk condition.
  • A player’s family member dies, is hospitalized or otherwise moves to a medical facility because of COVID-19 or a related condition.

There had been some back-and-forth about what the deadline actually was. Now we know. The Giants have seen Solder and wide receiver Da’Mari Scott opt out. Will they have any other players follow suit? We will know in the next couple of days.

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