You’re going to hear a lot of people in sports media say that the NFL’s new “legal tampering period” begins tonight. And, if you’re like most fans, you’re going to have no idea what that means.
Here’s what you need to know:
The NFL’s free agency period begins at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday (March 12).
In recent years, it was very common for players and their agents to start negotiating with teams before the official start of free agency. This is called “tampering.” Teams aren’t allowed to negotiate with players who are still under contract with another team. Pretty much every team did it, though. Few even tried to hide it. That’s why the NFL has created this new “legal tampering” period — why try to fight a losing battle?
At midnight tonight (technically, that would be tomorrow — but you get the picture), the NFL’s new legal tampering period begins. What this means is that, for the first time ever, the NFL is allowing teams to negotiate with the agents of impending free agents (players whose contracts are about to expire on Tuesday) before their contracts actually expire.
Teams will not be allowed to talk to players until free agency officially begins — only their agents. That’s just a formality, though. It’s the agents that do all the negotiating.
Teams will not be allowed to discuss plans for players to visit their facilities until Tuesday afternoon. They probably still will, though.
Teams will not be allowed to sign impending free agents to new contracts until Tuesday afternoon. They will, however, be able to unofficially agree to deals in principle. In other words, expect to see a lot of pens hitting paper as soon as the clock strikes 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
The legal tampering period applies only to players who are set to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) on Tuesday. Players who will become restricted free agents (RFAs) are exempt. Players under the Franchise Tag are exempt, too.
It should be very interesting to see how things play out this weekend. Late tonight, we’ll start hearing reports about which agents teams are attempting to negotiate with. This should give us a very good preview of where the top free agents will sign on Tuesday.
So… who’s staying up until midnight?