NFL roster sizes and other 2020 season changes being considered

The NFL has recently canceled supplemental draft and half of the preseason. But it doesn't appear the league is done making modifications to the upcoming season.

In the last 24-48 hours, multiple reports have surfaced surrounding the cancellation of the 2020 NFL supplemental draft and changes to the NFL’s preseason schedule. According to Pro Football Network Chief Draft Analyst and Insider Tony Pauline, it doesn’t appear the NFL plans on stopping there when it comes to the 2020 season.

On the latest episode of PFN’s NFL Draft Insiders podcast, Pauline tells us that numerous discussions have transpired around NFL roster sizes in 2020, the 2021 salary cap, and how teams will manage players testing positive before and during the upcoming season. So let’s break down the information Pauline shares on the show.

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The NFL begins canceling games

The annual Hall of Fame Game held in Canton, Ohio? Canceled. The NFL Supplement Draft Canceled. The NFL preseason? Not entirely canceled, but modified at the least.

According to numerous reports, the NFL will more than likely move on from Weeks 1 and 4 of the preseason schedule. While nothing has been set in stone at this moment in time, PFN’s Tony Pauline says there’s a high degree of certainty it happens.

The first domino to fall was the cancellation of the annual Hall of Fame game held in August. While insignificant from a competition standpoint, the Hall of Fame Game – more importantly – signified the beginning of the NFL season — the Hall of Fame Game is the first preseason matchup.

This news occurred congruently with the cancellation of the supplemental draft, which Pauline feels wouldn’t have been of significance anyway. According to his sources, Pauline was led to believe there were no “top-90” guys scheduled to enter. And any speculation surrounding a second supplemental draft in late August has since been squashed.

The cause and effect of cutting preseason games

How do NFL players feel about the shortened preseason? Pauline reminds us, “They wanted preseason cut in half. That’s what they’re getting now.”

During the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations, players wanted the preseason shortened if, in fact, the regular season was expanded from 16 to 17 games. So, why cut preseason games now? The idea is that by cutting the preseason in half, you reduce travel by 50% — less travel, less contact.

But unfortunately, doing so will affect individual players and coaches differently. Pauline goes on to explain, “Teams know the top 45 guys that are going to be on their roster. The preseason games are basically used to dictate those final five to ten roster spots.”

This means that new coaching staffs looking to implement their new systems will also be at a disadvantage.

NFL roster sizes in 2020 to be modified

There are rumors around the league that rosters may have to be reduced before the start of training camp. When asked how much truth there is behind this idea, Pauline responded, “There’s absolutely legs to this…it’s because they want to try and condense the (number) of people that are in the facility. Keep it to a minimum.”

So what’s considered the minimum? Pauline describes the league’s reduction plan saying, “When the veterans get in, the roster size has to be at 75.”

Two different options on the table right now

As of now, there’s no definitive way yet identified to roll this out. However, two specific ideas are being considered, and Pauline believes one of them will end up going forward.

The first option being discussed would have training camp open as normal with clubs being asked to enter training camp with only 75 players on the roster. That would mean cutting 15 players before camp.

The second route would allow for younger players, including rookies, to enter a week earlier than the veterans — resembling a mini tryout of sorts. After a few short days, the veterans would join and the roster cuts would have to occur at that juncture.

Again, the modifications will not affect everyone evenly.

Pauline points out that, “…obviously, your late-round picks and your undrafted free agent guys, it would affect the most…I don’t think some of the veterans, who may be making a decent salary, would be immune from this either.”

How will teams handle players testing positive before and during the season?

While there has been chatter regarding larger practice squads to account for the reduction in roster sizes in 2020, how does a franchise manage the burden of its players testing positive?

Pauline puts it plainly, “Players who test positive are very likely to go onto the NFI (non-football injury) list.”

With that said, the NFL is looking into creating an exclusive NFI list specifically for players who test positive before or during the season. The question then becomes, do players still get paid?

Pauline goes on to say there’s speculation, at least, that the NFL is working on an “across the board” rate of pay for all players who go on this select NFI list. Another concern Pauline raises is around the idea of players being asked to try out and potentially replace players recently added to the NFI lists.

“If you put four guys on the NFI list, and you want to bring guys in to work them out for potential roster spots, the veterans and the existing free agents, who come in, might be looking for some sort of guarantees,” said Pauline.

While getting a job should be incentive enough for unemployed professional football players, Pauline still believes players may require appearance/workout bonuses to account for the hazards of flying around the country for tryouts and meetings.

For the most part, the NFL and players are OK with these changes

It would be wrong to say that everyone loves the NFL’s decisions thus far along with any future modifications to the 2020 season that are currently being discussed. Still, Pauline gets the general feeling that everyone seems to be understanding of the entire situation. That’s because the league and its players recognize actions are needing to be made to salvage the 2020 NFL season.

However, “it depends on who you talk to,” says Pauline. “I spoke with some people who said they were disappointed. They thought that the league would be further ahead with this.”

In the league’s defense, Pauline goes on to say that remaining fluid with the situation as a whole is the right path for the league to take. Without having the absolutes, the NFL could never definitively make any announcements in regards to the current public health situation two months from now.

The NFL has done its best to keep the status quo, but that doesn’t mean they’re not gauging adjustments within their normal operations. With basketball and baseball starting up, the NFL has the advantage of using a wait-and-see approach.

And while they do that and we all wait for the official word on the 2020 NFL season, what does Pauline think about the upcoming season?

“So far, so good. Just keep your fingers crossed.”

Listen to the NFL Draft Insiders Podcast

You can listen to PFN’s NFL Draft Insiders Podcast with Pauline and host Andy Herman by clicking the embedded player below.

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