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Free Agent Negotiating Period Gets Underway For Cardinals, NFL

Teams can talk to other teams' players, signings can start Wednesday

Linebacker Jordan Hicks signs his free-agent contract with the Cardinals in 2019.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks signs his free-agent contract with the Cardinals in 2019.

Free agency – at least the negotiations that will lead to most of the first wave of free-agent signings – starts Monday.

Even as the NFL, like the rest of the world, deals with the coronavirus, the new league year will still begin Wednesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time. That's when free agents can begin agreeing to deals and signing with new teams. But teams can start talking potential deals with players Monday at 9 a.m. Arizona time.

By the time Wednesday arrives, the probable destinations of many players are already public. Last year, news leaked early of eventual free-agent signees of the Cardinals including Jordan Hicks and Terrell Suggs.

The Cardinals are among the teams who are having the vast majority of employees work from home as society works through the COVID-19 problem, but certain staff remains in the office. Each team will have to determine the process of getting free agents under contract; signings include passing a physical before a deal can be finalized.

Teams can still re-sign their own free agents at any time. The top unrestricted free agent to watch for the Cardinals remains running back Kenyan Drake, a player whom both GM Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury said the Cards wanted to retain. The "legal tampering" period will allow Drake to know his market – and will likely set the reality of whether Drake stays in Arizona or not.

The salary cap is set for 2020 at $198.2 million. According to, the Cardinals have slightly less than $35 million in cap space. In addition to potential free agent signees from other teams, that also must account for any potential free agents the Cardinals retain – like Drake, like exclusive rights free agent tackle Justin Murray and like restricted free agent kick Zane Gonzalez.

The Cardinals also must keep cap room for their six draft picks. The new CBA also raises the minimum salary and practice squad salaries, as well as the practice squad number from 10 to 12 – meaning there will be some extra cap factors on the back end of the roster once teams make final cuts in September.