Last year, the lockout delayed free agency until late July. And with free agency coming so quickly after the resolution of the lockout, there was no reason for any team to try to get a head start on the shopping spree.
This year, the calendar is back to normal. Free agency begins March 13. And, as a result, teams are beginning to subtly — or otherwise — squeeze the vegetables.
We’re already hearing multiple tales of teams making inquiries to the agents of players who will be on the open market when free agency opens. We won’t name names in order to protect the innocent (or, as the case may be, the guilty). But it’s already happening.
And once teams realize it’s happening, more teams will do it. As one team executive told PFT several years ago, that team chose to start doing it because that team believed it was at a strategic disadvantage, given that most if not all other teams were doing it.
The NFL typically won’t enforce the tampering rules unless someone is caught with one hand pressed against the bottom of the cookie jar and the other hand giving the league office the finger. And so, with no real downside to doing it and a potential disadvantage to not doing what most if not all other teams already do, the free agency period has, in some respects, already opened.