For the first time, the NFL has allowed three-day window for negotiations to take place between agents and teams prior to the start of free agency as a method to avoid accusations of tampering for players who are still technically under contract until Tuesday.
The negotiating period is already underway, having begun at midnight eastern time on Saturday. In theory, the Green Bay Packers are allowed to enter into contract talks with free agents of other teams, but whether that’s actually taking place is up for debate.
With big-money contract extensions due to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews in the near future, there isn’t going to be much money earmarked for unrestricted free agents, or at least the high-profile ones.
Street free agents are another matter. Players like Chris Canty and Cullen Jenkins can be signed at any time because they’ve been cut by their previous teams. Running back Steven Jackson can also be signed at any time because he voided his contract.
To get an idea of what’s allowed and what isn’t during this new negotiating window, the NFL provided this Q&A:
Q. What is permitted during the new three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?
A. Beginning at 12:00 midnight ET on Saturday, March 9 (i.e., after 11:59:59 p.m. ET, on Friday, March 8) and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, 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 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.
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’ 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.
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.