The NFL on Friday informed the Seahawks and the other 31 teams that all draft-related travel is prohibited as of the end of the day due to the novel coronavirus.
The memo helped solve a vexing issue for some teams of how to proceed. While some teams were limiting or eliminating travel, others were seemingly going about business as usual, worried about incurring any competitive disadvantage, with teams having no direction from the league.
In a memo sent to every NFL team and released by several different national media outlets, the league said visits by potential NFL draft picks to team facilities and trips by any NFL team personnel to campuses are prohibited “until further notice.’’
Some teams have taken the further step of announcing that their facilities are closed or closing and that employees will work from home.
The Seahawks have not made any announcements, but a spokesman said all employees who can work from home are being encouraged to do so with the team complying with all mandates set by Gov. Jay Inlsee.
With no word from the NFL, teams had been tempted to still send scouts and coaches on the road to pro days to evaluate draftees. Clemson and Oregon each held pro days Thursday, and it was reported that all 32 teams had at least one representative at Clemson’s pro day.
But pro days are effectively shuttered now with Friday’s edict.
Teams are also typically allowed to bring in 30 players for visits before the draft, which is scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas (and for now, the league has not announced any changes to the draft).
And while most teams had appeared to be holding off on visits, the Miami Dolphins on Friday had Utah State quarterback Jordan Love at their facility. That might be the last for any NFL team this year.
Instead of visiting with draft prospects, teams will be allowed to have video conferences with players, though no more than three per player, each lasting no more than an hour.
The NFL’s memo also said any updated medical information on players — physicals are often a key part of player visits — will be shared.
The league said any violations of the memo will be subject to league discipline.
Teams already had opportunities to meet with many players at the scouting combine last month, the Senior Bowl and other bowl games, as well as any pro days that had already been held.
The Seahawks will have eight picks in the draft, including three in the top 64, led by the 27th selection in the first round.
The memo did not address the upcoming free-agency signing period, which is set to begin with the “legal tampering’’ period Monday. Teams are scheduled to be allowed to officially sign free agents Wednesday afternoon.
But there remains widespread speculation that the league might just be waiting for the NFL Players Association to conclude its vote on a new collective-bargaining agreement before making an announcement.
That vote is expected to conclude by midnight Saturday or early Sunday. And one thought is that the league wants to assure the players wouldn’t use an announced postponement of free agency as a way to further delay the vote, which was pushed back 48 hours earlier this week.
Once free agency does hit, the Seahawks will be among the most intriguing teams, with rampant speculation about the fate of the likes of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson and offensive linemen Germain Ifedi and George Fant.
Teams can re-sign their own free agents at any time. But with now just a few days left to free agency, it appears increasingly likely that all will become free agents.
And while most of the sports world has halted, much NFL business appeared normal Friday as teams prepared for free agency, some of which could affect how the Seahawks proceed.
Specifically, the Jacksonvile Jaguars placed a franchise tag on defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, while the Ravens placed one on end/outside linebacker Matthew Judon. Both moves were expected, but team now off the board could make Clowney that much more desirable on the open market.
The Seahawks cannot tag Clowney because they agreed they wouldn’t as part of the contract he signed upon his trade from Houston to the Seahawks the week before the 2019 regular season began. Because Clowney can’t be tagged while other top-flight pass rushers are being taken off the market, speculation has increased that he might get priced out of what Seattle wants to pay.
But for now, it remains uncertain exactly when Clowney and other free agents will get to hit the market.