While the official start of NFL Free Agency is not until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12, a new league provision allows teams to being negotiating with unrestricted free agents when the clock strikes midnight on Saturday. The new rule was put into place in October of 2012 and allows “legal tampering” for the three days leading up to the start of the official free agency period.
This means that when midnight strikes, teams and agents will begin discussing contracts and sides will be working around the clock to get agreements in place before March 12.
While teams can speak with the player’s agents, they cannot speak with the free agents themselves. Players are also not permitted to make visits with teams during the legal tampering period unless it was the team that they played for the previous season.
ESPN analyst and former NFL executive Bill Polian discussed what the three-day tampering period could mean for free agency:
“We discussed it when I was a member of the competition committee, [and] I think it’s fair to say that everybody will be interested to see how it works out [and] what the results of it are. I wouldn’t say that everybody was enthusiastic about it. We all had some reservations, but on balance I think it’s fair to say it was something that would at least bring some organization to what had been a very chaotic process. Now agents can talk to clubs, they can go back to the old clubs with what one would assume would be a bonafide offer or some parameters. They can gauge who’s interested and who’s not interested, so all of those things may bring a little more organization to it than had previously existed.”
It will certainly be interesting to see how the new tampering period will change the way free agency works.
Agents will be working hard and speaking with a number of teams to gauge the interest in their client. With the three-day period set to allow negotiations, expect a number of deals to be signed shortly after the clock hits 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.
It’s a fun time to be a football fan. Buckle up and enjoy the free agency ride.
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