As the Detroit Lions prepare for training camp, there are a handful of talented players still available in the free agent market that could help the team succeed in 2020. Guys like Everson Griffen, Jadeveon Clowney or even a return by Mike Daniels could all make an impact on this Detroit team.
But aside from salary cap concerns for this year and next, Lions general manager Bob Quinn explained why adding a free agent right now isn’t as simple as it normally would be at this time of year.
“As it stands right now, we cannot bring a player in for a tryout,” Quinn said on a video conference call on Wednesday. “We cannot bring a free agent player in for a tryout as it stands right now. The league is working on this, and they’re supposed to be letting us know how we can do that.”
Right now, the only thing NFL teams can do with players they are considering adding via free agency or trades is bring them in for a physical at an off-site location. Teams cannot bring such players to the organization’s facility, though, in order to keep the site safe from COVID-19.
Obviously, the NFL is working to set up protocols to make on-site evaluations safe, but it’s unclear what the timeline is. Quinn said he had a meeting with the league on Tuesday and they expressed the team’s urgency to have these safeguards in place.
Another complication to the process is what happens when a player is signed? What processes do they have to go through before entering the population of a team that has already gone through rigorous COVID-19 testing?
“The on-boarding process of claiming a player, trading for a player, signing a free agent during the season, all that stuff—honestly, I don’t have a lot of information on it, because they haven’t told us,” Quinn said. “That’s a whole different protocol than the protocol that’s in place for the players that are currently on your roster.”
So, for now, it sounds like the Lions will be in a holding pattern when it comes to adding new players. This also explains the Lions’ decision to stick with the 90-man roster and splitting the squads rather than cutting the roster down to 80 players. With no clear way to add players safely, it makes sense to keep their players around to compensate in case of injury or positive COVID-19 tests.
There is just not enough information out there on how to do add new players safely, and Quinn made it clear that protecting players and staff from the virus is one of his highest priorities.