Trades dominate first day of NFL’s legal tampering period

The Colts reportedly acquired defensive lineman DeForest Buckner from the 49ers for the No. 13 pick in this year's draft on Monday.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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.

In other pending deals or moves:

— Free agent tackle Jack Conklin has agreed to a three-year, $42 million contract with the Browns. A 2016 All-Pro as a rookie, he will get $30 million guaranteed and earn $20 million in his first year.

— Defensive end Shaq Lawson has agreed to a $30 million, three-year contract with Miami. The contract could be worth up to $36 million, and $21 million will be guaranteed. Lawson spent his first four NFL seasons with the Bills and last year had a career-high 6 1/2 sacks, which would have led the Dolphins.

— Minnesota reached an agreement with punter Britton Colquitt on a three-year, $9 million contract in which he will get $5 million in guaranteed money.

— Washington agreed to re-sign inside linebacker Jon Bostic to a $6.6 million, two-year deal. He was tied for second on the team with 105 tackles in 2019.

— Two veterans retired: Ben Watson and Ramon Foster.

Watson, a 39-year-old Patriots tight end, is concluding a 15-year NFL career that included two stints in New England, as well as stops in Cleveland, New Orleans and Baltimore. Watson retires with 547 catches for 6,058 yards and 44 touchdowns. And a Super Bowl ring.

Foster, 34, is an 11-year veteran who made the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee in 2009. He became a steadying force on a unit that evolved into one of the league’s best.