The NFL’s much talked about three-day negotiating window leading into free agency opens on Monday, March 7 and remains an interesting topic and a source of debate.
The basically farcical Legal Tampering Window begins on March 7 will continue until free agency begins on March 9 at 4 p.m. The NFL sent out a memo in 2013 when they first allowed this window of honeymooning free agents spelling out the parameters of what is and isn’t allowed during these negotiations.
Clubs were advised in PP-26-13 that during the three-day negotiating period for prospective Unrestricted Free Agents, they are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12, and that no contract can be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12.
Clubs are further advised that prior to the beginning of the new League Year it is impermissible for a club to enter into an agreement of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to, or to be offered to, any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year. Any announcement of an agreement or an agreement in principle by a club or another party, including, but not limited to, a certified agent, player, or media organization may subject the club to a tampering investigation.
The league talked of shortening the window down from three days to just two, ostensibly to cut down on the amount of leaked information that is being learned about the contracts that are already signed, sealed and delivered prior to actual free agency beginning. But the official word was to allow better negotiations between agents and teams.
The Dolphins six-year, $114 million-dollar deal with Ndamakong Suh was widely reported prior to free agency starting in 2015…and they weren’t the only ones. Which prompted the league to send out a memo to all the teams to stop the practice of making monetary pledges to players prior to free agency.
“Any attempt to undermine the purpose of this negotiating period may be considered conduct detrimental to the League.’ At this time, the League office is beginning investigations into a number of reported agreements with clubs. Violations will be dealt with accordingly.” Uh huh.
What does this mean for the Patriots? Not much. Their biggest free agent Akiem Hicks is set to test free agency and he’ll be sure to get some interest from several teams among them the Pats. Safety Nate Ebner isn’t expected to draw much interest, although players already released such as Brandon LaFell, Scott Chandler and Darius Fleming are free to sign with another team immediately.
The Patriots will do their due diligence and interview a free agent or two but don’t expect to hear much about how those visits go. They are notoriously closed lipped about these things.
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