Sean Payton thinks coronavirus could delay NFL free agency, but what about the draft?

·2 min read
Coronavirus coverage
Coronavirus coverage

Sports might be mostly shut down, but horse racing remains active. And New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was one of the folks not quarantined, taking in the ponies for a full racing slate at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on Saturday.

And Payton seems to think that the NFL’s offseason could be the next delayed sports-related event affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Asked what effect it has had to this point on the league, Payton sounded like a man who is not expecting the free-agency period to begin on time as planned next week.

“Yeah, I think most immediately, the start of our league year, which is due to be this [coming] Wednesday, I think, when free agency begins ... that's gonna be, I think, pushed back,” Payton said. “Because there’s a lot that goes into that, a lot of visits players take.”

So far, there has been no official word from the league on any changes to the start of free agency.

The NFL has canceled its spring meeting, which was scheduled to start March 29, but has not otherwise altered any major portion of its schedule yet. The biggest change came with the elimination of pre-draft visits to NFL teams prior to the draft, as well as visits to schools with NFL prospects, keeping all meetings with teams to strictly limited online interactions.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame also announced that it will close its doors temporarily, through at least March 27.

Payton was also asked about the 2020 NFL draft, which remains scheduled (for now) for April 23-25 in Las Vegas.

“I don’t know if that’s going to change, date-wise,” he said. “Certainly, the format is going to change, relative to what they’re used to.”

The expectation is that the scene in Las Vegas won’t look a thing like it did in Nashville a year ago, with the draft attracting some 600,000 visitors. It’s possible that the grandiose plans for the event will undergo major changes, assuming things don’t change dramatically in the coming days and weeks.

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