Since the 2011 labor deal removed most of the items about which teams and draft picks can haggle, most teams have quickly signed most if not all of their incoming rookies. This year may not be like other recent years.
The pandemic may impact the willingness of teams to sign draft picks, for a couple of important reasons. First, teams won’t want to commit to signing bonuses and salary guarantees before their own doctors have a chance to perform physicals on the draft picks. Second, with no offseason workouts and the possibility that revenue will be down dramatically in 2020, teams will be happy to hold their cash for as long as they can.
Some teams likely will find a way around that, getting physicals performed in a player’s home city. And some teams will pay the rookies, hopeful that their contracts will toll if there is no football in 2020.
It may be much more complicated than that; as previously mentioned, the CBA has no force majuere clause, which means that players arguably entitled to full pay even if there’s no season. So the only way to avoid paying draft picks may be to not sign them.
That approach carries a major risk, too. After all, if there’s no season in 2020 and if teams don’t get their draft picks signed before the plug is officially pulled, draft picks could just choose to re-enter the draft in 2021 and hope to be picked by someone else.