The NFL has barred in-person interviews with free agents and is requiring local physical examinations for them rather than team-conducted exams.
In a memo sent to the 32 franchises on Monday, the league also banned travel by team personnel to meet with free agents as well as those players traveling to team facilities. The league’s business year begins Wednesday, and the period in which players’ representatives could negotiate with clubs began Monday — though no deals could be finalized.
All offseason activities such as meetings, practices and minicamps, have been delayed indefinitely as a safeguard against the new coronavirus. No players can enter a club facility through March 31, with the exception of those receiving medical treatment.
The restrictions were first reported by ESPN.
Earlier, things just got hotter on offense in the desert.
The first day that players’ representatives could talk with teams wound up being more about trades than free agents — with one of the NFL’s biggest stars, DeAndre Hopkins, headed to Arizona.
In a stunner that overshadowed several other trades and a slew of offers to unrestricted free agents, the Texans sent their three-time All-Pro receiver to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a second-round draft pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2021.
Several Cardinals players not surprisingly reacted positively to the move on social media. Quarterback Kyler Murray, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, responded with a “ LET’S GET RIGHT! @DeAndreHopkins ” while wideout Christian Kirk added “ 10 + 11 + 13 = SCARY SIGHT. Welcome to the squad bro let’s eat! ”
The NFC champion 49ers got into the bartering, too. They dealt top defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for the No. 13 pick in this year’s draft, which, incidentally, won’t have any public events next month in Las Vegas — if it is even held there as originally planned.
A person familiar with the deal said Buckner will receive a new contract worth $21 million a year from the Colts. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal and contract can’t be finalized until the start of the league year Wednesday.
The trade came just after San Francisco opted to keep another standout lineman, Arik Armstead, who got a five-year deal worth $85 million.
“I’m excited to continue my career with the 49ers, the organization that gave me a chance by drafting me five years ago,” Armstead said. “They have given me the platform to give back to my community and play the game I love at the highest level, and I am just getting started.”
The NFL’s business year is just getting started, as planned, despite the spread of the new coronavirus. For now, all moves are being done remotely with basically a ban on travel within the league.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Also traded was Baltimore tight end Hayden Hurst to Atlanta, which is losing TE Austin Hooper to Cleveland in free agency. The Ravens received second and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft, and the Falcons got a fourth-rounder.
Fourteen franchise tags were handed out, the most since 2012, with only one quarterback, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott. The other biggest names among those franchised were Titans running back Derrick Henry; Bengals receiver A.J. Green; Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones; and Buccaneers linebacker Shaq Barrett, the league leader in sacks in 2019. The move by Tampa Bay with Barrett almost assures that quarterback Jameis Winston is headed elsewhere.
Franchise tag values range from $26.824 million for a quarterback, to $17.865 million for a running back to $17.788 million for a defensive end/edge rusher; to $5.019 million for kickers.
Running back Kenyan Drake got a transition tag from Arizona, but with Johnson traded to Houston, he has an open path to the starting job.
In case you’re wondering, no word out of the Tom Brady camp on a potential landing spot for the six-time Super Bowl champion should he leave New England.