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NFL free agency begins (sort of) with 3-day negotiating period

The NFL's three-day negotiating period leading up to free agency has begun. Here's what you need to know about it.

Beginning today at 11 a.m. (Arrowhead Time), NFL free agency will begin ... sort of. This is the second year the real free agency will be preceded by a three-day negotiating period commonly dubbed "legal tampering".

Free agency was designed to be fair to everyone. Teams aren't supposed to talk to other teams free agents until free agency actually begins and the players are free. If they contact them anyway, that's called tampering. You're not supposed to do that (right, Darnell Dockett? Or Vontae Davis?).

The problem is that everyone tampers. Teams and agents meet each year in Indy for the Combine and that has become the unofficial starting place of free agency because agents start getting an idea of the market for their clients. A little due diligence never hurt anyone (Indeed, hardly anyone ever got busted for tampering).

Like the extra point, the NFL's tampering rules were pointless because they weren't enforced and everyone broke them anyway. So what the NFL did was create this "legal tampering" period three days before free agency when agents and teams can talk. Everyone was breaking the rules so they just created a new rule (which seems like a dangerous precedent).

Sure, some folks are still going to tamper but two sources told me this week that the tampering overall is down this year. Teams and agents are doing it less because this window is here. So I guess it's working? Maybe?

Anyway, here are some facts to know about the legal tampering period:

  • Applies to unrestricted free agents only, not restricted free agents
  • Agents can negotiate with teams but can not sign a deal
  • Players can not speak with the teams, just agents
  • Players can not visit other teams (except their own)

The NFL released a Q&A on the negotiating period. Here's what it says:

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.

During this negotiation period, a prospective unrestricted free agent cannot visit a club (other than the player's current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player's current club).  If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.

Clubs (other than the player's current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective unrestricted free agent players, their certified agents, or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players' 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential unrestricted free agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.

Here are the Chiefs free agents:

LT Branden Albert, G Geoff Schwartz, G Jon Asamoah, WR Dexter McCluster, WR Kyle Williams, DE Tyson Jackson, LB Akeem Jordan, LB Frank Zombo, S Kendrick Lewis, DB Husain Abdullah, DB Quintin Demps

The Chiefs top two needs are safety and wide receiver with offensive guard possibly a big one if both Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah leave. MNChiefsfan recently argued the Chiefs should address safety in free agency, not the draft.

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