Welcome to the nebulous “legal tampering” period of the NFL calendar. While “legal” and “tampering” are an oxymoron, that is what is allowed during this time, when players are still technically under contract with a team but agents are allowed to start talking to other teams about contracts for next year.
What exactly is allowed during this period and when does it end? We have all the information you need to get through what should be a period of rumors, reports, and agreements.
Legal tampering period start and end
The period will run from noon today until the official start of free agent at 4pm ET on Wednesday.
What is the legal tampering period?
Officially described by the NFL as a period when, “Clubs 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 2018 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 13,” the legal tampering period - not an official name and you will hear it called the “negotiating window” and “negotiating period” as well - is simply a time when teams and agents can start talking about a contract.
Which free agents?
Players who will become unrestricted free agents at 4pm ET on Wednesday are allowed to have their agents talk to teams. The unrestricted part is important, as restricted free agents cannot start negotiations on offer sheets until March 13.
There are rules to the legal tampering period. Players may not visit or talk to teams. Period. There are no phone calls being made to players by teams. Only team representatives and agents are allowed to talk. And talk is all that is allowed to happen. Numbers can be passed back and forth and a verbal agreement can be unofficially made, but nothing official can be agreed to, announced, or signed until 4pm ET on March 13.
Think back to the Miami Dolphins agreement with Ndamukong Suh and how there was speculation that the team had done something wrong. The framework of a deal can be in place, but the specifics and the contract cannot be completed until free agency begins. You will hear reports of agreements, but those deals usually get dragged out a few hours or days in order to make sure there is no appearance of impropriety.
Also, a weird situation is if a player represents himself. He still cannot talk to a team, so he will not be contacted during the legal tampering period.
Finally, travel arrangements for visits cannot be made during the period. So, an agent and a team cannot buy tickets to have a player visit the team facilities as soon as free agency begins. Now, if a player happens to be traveling to that city and is there on Wednesday, that is just a coincidence, right?
Teams are still allowed to re-sign their own soon-to-be free agents during this period. Some teams use this period as a chance to gauge the market and demand for a player, then re-sign him to a sensible contract, rather than take a chance that they will be overpaying for the player or bidding against themselves. It is risky because there could be higher demand or the player could see it as an insult that the team did not just re-sign him initially, but it is a possibility.
Teams can work out trades during this period as well, and some do formulate during the legal tampering period, but they will not become official until 4pm ET March 13.
Dolphins free agents
Unrestricted free agents
- Danny Amendola, wide receiver (released) - Signed with Detroit Lions
- Stephone Anthony, linebacker
- Brandon Bolden, running back
- Andre Branch, defensive end (released)
- A.J. Derby, tight end
- David Fales, quarterback
- Frank Gore, running back
- MarQueis Gray, tight end
- William Hayes, defensive end
- Ziggy Hood, defensive tackle
- Ja’Wuan James, tackle
- Wesley Johnson, center
- Ted Larsen, guard (released)
- Brock Osweiler, quarterback
- Senorise Perry, running back
- Travis Swanson, center
- Cameron Wake, defensive end
- Sylvester Williams, defensive tackle
- Sam Young, tackle
Restricted Free Agents
- Isaac Asiata, guard - Tendered
- Jake Brendel, center
- Leonte Carroo, wide receiver
- Jesse Davis, guard - Tendered
- Mike Hull, linebacker
- Zach Sterup, tackle - Tendered
- Jonathan Woodard, defensive end - Tendered
- John Denney, long snapper