I think the NFL calls it the “early negotiating window” but the rest of us refer to what starts at noon today as the “legal tampering period”.
Prior to 2013, teams were not allowed to contact the agents for other teams’ pending free agents prior to the start of the free agent signing period. Starting last year, from noon the Saturday before free agency starts until 3:39 on Tuesday, teams will be able to call agents and talk contracts—to a point.
The NFL doesn’t want teams and agents to actually agree to terms of a contract that will be signed and filed at 4:01 on Tuesday. The contact is supposed to consist of expressing interest and discussion of the parameters of a deal only.
The big question here is whether or not anything really changes when the clock strikes noon today. Despite the rules, teams and agents have been discussing interest and contract parameters since the NFL Combine last month, perhaps even longer. The fact that it will become legal at noon won’t really change what has been going on but there should be more leaks to the media as there is no need to worry about possible sanctions.
One more note, Dan Snyder can’t get Redskins One fueled up for this occasion. Teams aren’t allowed to talk to players during this period, just their agents. So no Redskins Park visits are on tap for the weekend.
Update: Via our friends at Pro Football Talk, here are the guidelines the NFL made the media (emphasis added).
“Beginning at 12:00 noon ET on Saturday, March 8 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2013 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.”