Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Closer look at legal 'tampering' period

By Field Yates

NFL free agency technically does not begin until March 12, but a new provision was approved in October of 2012 that permits "legal tampering" with pending free agents three days in advance.

What it means is that teams are allowed to be in contact with pending free agents starting this Saturday, March 9 without penalty. Contact between teams and players from other franchises is otherwise prohibited, and can result in punishment from the league.

This weekend will likely be a busy one for agents with clients who are set to become free agents. Although deals cannot be officially completed, agreements can be made to complete the deal on Tuesday.

Teams can continue to negotiate with their own pending free agents during this period as well.

On a conference call Tuesday morning, ESPN NFL analyst and longtime NFL personnel executive Bill Polian shared some thoughts on the impact of the three-day "legal tampering" window.

"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," he said. "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."

Perhaps the most interesting part of this window is that agents can gauge interest of other teams and bring proposed offers to the player's old team as part of a negotiation. If a team is in negotiations with a pending free agent prior to the window to discuss with other teams, an agent may be inclined to hold off from having his player sign a deal in order to gauge if he could earn a more lucrative offer from another team.

There are a number of ripple effects from this newly-instituted window, and it will be interesting to see how things unfold this weekend.