CFL draft selections not being offered contracts amid COVID-19 uncertainty

Photo courtesy: University of Virginia

The 2020 CFL draft was held at the end of April with 73 prospects selected across eight rounds.

The negotiating period following the CFL draft usually flows quickly. Training camps are typically set to begin two to three weeks following the event, so teams are motivated to get deals done.

Negotiations were expected to be even quicker under the new collective bargaining agreement. The draft now has “slotted” contracts, which means that players are required to sign for a (mostly) predetermined dollar figure depending on where they are selected.

Below are a pair of screenshots from the league’s CBA detailing the nature of rookie national contracts.

Teams have yet to formally announce the signings of any selections since the draft took place. This isn’t a surprise given that training camps — originally slated to open May 17 — have been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What may come as a surprise is that clubs have not yet started the negotiating process. Per sources, draft selections have not been offered contracts as CFL teams look to limit spending amid the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season.

Top draft selections are eligible to negotiate a signing bonus of up to $7,500. These bonuses are paid out immediately and cannot be recouped if the 2020 season is cancelled. As such, it could be a long time before we see any players selected in this year’s draft sign a CFL contract.

This is a problem for draftees as it may deem them ineligible for government assistance if there is no 2020 season. Without a contract, players are not yet considered members of the CFLPA or employees of their respective clubs. It’s tough to seek funding for lost wages when you were never formally employed to begin with.

Worse yet, it’s possible that the U Sports and NCAA seasons will not go ahead as scheduled, either. This means that prospects with remaining eligibility may be left with no option to play football in 2020.

The ongoing health pandemic has adversely affected the lives of virtually all professional athletes. This year’s crop of CFL draft prospects has felt the brunt perhaps worst of all, receiving the short end of an already very short stick.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.