I’ve often thought — and I still might be right — that oversaturation would lead to the NFL’s demise. It wasn’t going to be concussions or political statements. It wasn’t going to be the next generation of kids choosing other sports. It was going to be that, no matter what time year it was, NFL news and analysis would appear on Page 1.
When it goes from the end of the season, to the scouting combine in Indy, to free agency, to the draft, to rookie minicamp, to organized team activities, to full minicamp, to training camp and then to the start of the season, it can be more than a bit overwhelming.
But as sports in the U.S. and much of the world have ground to an indefinite halt because of concerns about the novel coronavirus, I have to think there are millions who share this sentiment: Thank God the NFL doesn’t stop.
No, sports are not a priority right now, and they should always be kept in perspective. But they have long served as a diversion from real-world problems, whether it’s stress at work or a national crisis.
In this case, however, most of those diversions have vanished. But we still have free agency and will likely have the NFL draft. That will do for now.
NBC Sports’ Peter King quoted an anonymous owner who said the league proceeding with business as usual was “tone deaf” given the circumstances of the nation. An anonymous general manager echoed his thoughts, saying “We’re in a national emergency as a country, and we do this? It’s awful.”
But the thing is, all the trading and signings over this period are done remotely, meaning nobody is put at risk (physicals will be done later). And with most forms of recreation disappearing right now, sports nuts need this distraction.
It was nice to see the lead story on ESPN’s home page Monday afternoon be about something other than seasons and events being postponed or canceled. In this case, it was about the shocking trade between the Texans and the Cardinals, in which Houston dealt wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a draft pick to Arizona for running back David Johnson and a pick.
The Texans essentially parted ways with one of the best receivers in the league for a past-his-prime running back and an early draft selection. It set Twitter ablaze, and prompted some to reminisce about Houston trading defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks before last season, which seemed like an equally imprudent move.
Speaking of Clowney, he hasn’t made any decisions yet as to where he’ll be heading next season. But when the Colts gave defensive lineman DeForest Buckner a $21 million-a-year deal after a trade with the 49ers, it dramatically increased the chances Jadeveon won’t be back with Seattle next season.
The thought is that the Seahawks are willing to pay in the $18 million-$20 million range, and Buckner’s deal set the market for Clowney. Doesn’t mean signing Clowney is an impossibility for Seattle (it seemed unlikely before last season, too), but it is improbable now.
It’s all still good fodder, though. And given how the Seahawks rarely strike early in free agency, there will be plenty of speculation as the signing period goes on.
Will they work out a deal to bring back defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who had 10½ sacks two seasons ago? Will they add depth to their receiving corps or offensive line? Will Seattle general manager John Schneider make another Clowney-like heist, as he seems to do consistently? Who knows? But it is fun to wonder.
This is one of the more challenging times our country has faced, with new fears and restrictions popping up every day. And one of our prime coping mechanisms — sports — is virtually gone for the foreseeable future.
What we do have, though, is a free-agency period to get people talking. And then we’ll have a lead-up to the draft, which is scheduled to proceed sans fans. And then, barring a change in plans, we’ll have a three-day televised draft, which might not have the pageantry of drafts past but will still spawn suspense and emotion.
Most of the time, the never-ending NFL seems like too much. But right now, it’s exactly what sports fans need.