Thursday, January 28

NFL bars player and team travel for free agency interviews due to coronavirus risk

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 travelling to team facilities. The league’s business year begins on Wednesday, and the period in which players’ representatives could negotiate with clubs began Monday — though no deals could be finalised.

All off-season activities such as meetings, practices and minicamps have been delayed indefinitely as a safeguard against coronavirus. No players can enter a club facility through 31 March, with the exception of those receiving medical treatment.

The restrictions were first reported by ESPN.

In a flurry of activity around the league Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys and top receiver Amari Cooper agreed on a $100 million, five-year contract. That came after the Cowboys placed their exclusive franchise tag on Dak Prescott, securing the rights to their star quarterback for an estimated $31.5m while the sides continue working on a long-term deal.

Buffalo agreed to acquire big-play receiver Stefon Diggs and a seventh-round draft pick from Minnesota in exchange for four draft picks, including No. 22 overall this year. The Vikings also agreed with quarterback Kirk Cousins on a $66m, two-year contract extension.

Miami sealed deals with four likely starters and made Byron Jones the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback at more than $76.5m over five years, surpassing new teammate Xavien Howard. The Dolphins upgraded their pass rush by landing linebacker Kyle Van Noy ($51m, four years) and defensive end Shaq Lawson ($30m, three years), and also swung a deal with offensive lineman Ereck Flowers ($30m, three years).

Free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota agreed to join the Las Vegas Raiders, giving them an experienced back-up who could also challenge Derek Carr for the starting role. Mariota, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, lost his starting job in Tennessee last season to Ryan Tannehill.

Earlier, things got even hotter in the desert on offense when 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.​