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New NFL memo contradicts plain language of revised rules

big-bad-wolf

If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would be funny.

After years of looking the other way despite blatant tampering in the days and weeks prior to the official launch of free agency, which often featured the negotiation of multi-million-dollar contracts in a matter of minutes and/or the instantaneous making and execution of travel plans to visit teams, the league has created a three-day window during which negotiations may occur between teams and agents representing free agents.

The “2013 free agency questions and answers” published by the NFL on Thursday plainly state: “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.”

This language does not prohibit the finalization of an agreement in principle, with the formal contract execution coming the moment the close strikes 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12.  Thus language implies that everything can be prepared by Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. for the prompt execution of the formal contract.

But even at a time when tampering has been rampant and blatant (as anyone who attended the Scouting Combine and/or stayed at one of the hotels swarming with team employees and player agents knows), the NFL has reportedly warned teams not to strike agreements in principle with agents before 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.

The memo sent Friday to all teams, a copy of which PFT has obtained reiterates that “no contract can be executed until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12.”

In the next breath, the memo explains that “prior to the beginning of the new League Year it is impermissible for a club to enter into an agreement of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to, or to be offered to, any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year.”

So what the hell are the teams and agents supposed to be negotiating?

The limitation in the document dubbed PP-28-13 contradicts the plain language of the rule articulated in PP-26-13.  If the original limitation was that no contract may be executed before 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12, the notion that no verbal understandings may be reached by then guts the rule.  And turns common sense on its head.

The most amazing aspect of PP-28-13 is the threat of a “tampering investigation.”  When it comes to tampering investigations, the league has been impotent for years, pursuing only the most blatant, defiant, and/or idiotic instances of tampering and turning a blind but knowing eye to countless instances of it.

The NFL doesn’t pursue tampering cases in part because everyone does it.  So now, out of the blue, the NFL threatens a tampering investigation against any team that reaches a tentative agreement during a period expressly allowing everything short of a signed contract?  Really?

It’s a joke, but it all points to something former Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli first mentioned last month on Pro Football Talk:  The league is building toward a contrived “signing day,” on which players will announce that which previously was unknown to anyone except the player and his family.

Still, it’s impractical in this context, and we can’t imagine that a sudden wave of huffing and puffing from a league office that has little capacity to blow anything down if the teams are discreet will keep teams from striking informal deals and then getting the word out in order to scare other teams away from the player.

Obviously, we encourage discreet defiance.  In part because I just slept three hours so that I could stay up all night and write about the agreements in principle that, prior to Friday’s memo, the new rules clearly allowed.

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29 Responses to “New NFL memo contradicts plain language of revised rules”
  1. mikelitoris1 says: Mar 9, 2013 12:18 AM

    Why can’t we just start free agency today?

  2. heeeeelzfan says: Mar 9, 2013 12:22 AM

    Tampering? In the NFL? No way.

  3. mazblast says: Mar 9, 2013 12:24 AM

    The Great Roger Goodell Himself Live And In Person is just setting up another rule-that-isn’t-really-a-rule-except-that-I-want-to-take-action-against-teams-not-on-my-A-list. Expect just about any team to be arbitrarily subject to this non-rule, fined, and perhaps stripped of draft picks; any team, that is, not owned by someone named Kraft or Mara.

  4. silverhornet says: Mar 9, 2013 12:29 AM

    looks like the NFL doesn’t want us (the public) to know. This is them having their cake and eating it too.

  5. ygkr85 says: Mar 9, 2013 12:29 AM

    Well said, right in your wheelhouse Mike! One of your best in a while!

  6. thestrategyexpert says: Mar 9, 2013 12:33 AM

    Wow the NFL sure did release a lot of complicated information for the people that are apparently to stupid to figure out how to determine when midnight has arrived. Thanks NFL for looking out and educating us on these complex cycles of space-time.

    So where is the literature that explains the process for determining gray area tampering situations that might occur after 11:59:59 but before 12:00? I just found a loophole in the language. Also they say “for example”, so what are other example times that qualify here? Surely not 11:59:58 right? Why is it that it’s ok to infringe 1 second before midnight but not 2? Why not just make it 0 seconds? They sure went out of their way with a lot of extra language to describe the process of how to tamper in that particular 1 second window.

    Oh and I did look up the actual rules to see if that parentheses portion was actually included because I couldn’t believe that it was. Sure enough it is in there.

  7. pppath says: Mar 9, 2013 12:39 AM

    Kinda ruins your midnight madness stay up all night for the twitter feed thing.

  8. pppath says: Mar 9, 2013 12:47 AM

    I want my “Agreement in Principle.”

  9. pppath says: Mar 9, 2013 12:51 AM

    I think I’m the only one who stayed up all night for this.

  10. msclemons67 says: Mar 9, 2013 1:21 AM

    All of these new rules and interpretations of old rules in one of the worst free agent classes I can remember.

  11. randylaheytpb says: Mar 9, 2013 1:34 AM

    Sure a signing day would be cool, (actually, no it wouldn’t) but it is impractical and dumb. College recruiting teams put the wheels on recruits but there are no negotiations (well, in theory). There have to be negotiations for an NFL contracts and usually thorough and in depth ones at that, even for the most hastily signed contracts. Players don’t just simply “sign for a team” like the Signing Day notion implies.

    Stupid gimmick. I’m a Giants fan but am proud to say that I give the NFL no money besides 2 t shirts bought in the last two years and the portion of my cable bill that goes to them.

    I’ll consume your damn product, but I will Not admit how much I like it.

  12. lostsok says: Mar 9, 2013 2:02 AM

    In the age of Twitter keeping these agreements secret is both unrealistic and unnecessary.

    Frankly, it would make more sense for these players to become free agent the moment the Super Bowl ends.

  13. ron69 says: Mar 9, 2013 2:38 AM

    Not agreement in principle? what is the point to negotiate then? or aren’t they allowed to?
    Or it could be interest means agreement? this is so confusing, what a hell am i doing here in the first place if there are not agreements i hope to get a sleep cause i drank too much coffee.

  14. nickster31 says: Mar 9, 2013 5:29 AM

    Come on now everyone, be fair.

    If Goodell wants to punish ANY player / team he has every right.

    Patriots cheat (Spygate) they get a slap on the wrist. Saints cheat (Bountygate) their entire coaching staff gets suspended and so do players.

    The Redskins and Cowboys (fan of neither) treat the uncapped year like an uncapped year and lose MILLIONS of their salary in a capped year.

    Come on people, stop looking for common sense. This is the NFL.

  15. computojon says: Mar 9, 2013 7:10 AM

    “It means it’s a great-idea-but-possibly-not-and-I’m-not-being-indecisive!”

  16. patsbbfan says: Mar 9, 2013 7:22 AM

    This is as stupid as first marijuana laws. Legal to buy and posses, not legal to grow and sell. Kinda of trying to have it both ways.

    You can negotiate and agree to and outline/do the contract but you can not tell anyone about it or say you have an agreement in principal to 4 PM on Monday…. Huh?

    More importantly why? Does it really change what is already happening in the media with all the reports/speculation on who will sign where and so on and so forth.

    NFL stop treating us like we are stupid. There are already “agreements” in principal just like there were last year and the year before that and ….

    How could they ever enforce this? or that’s right Goodwell can do whatever he wants…

  17. kelvinmchale says: Mar 9, 2013 7:42 AM

    Sports were so much more fun before the lawyers took over.

  18. bartlettruss says: Mar 9, 2013 7:42 AM

    I wonder if fans would pay $25 each to hear about the agreements in principle…

  19. tincansailor981 says: Mar 9, 2013 8:38 AM

    More of Goody’s crap. He’s just looking for a way to a) stuff more money into the owners pockets b) further morph the game into a clone of the NCAA c) keep the biggest revenue generating teams competitive, thus stuffing more money into the owners pocket. This guy is a joke.

  20. sampulls says: Mar 9, 2013 9:46 AM

    NFL biased? Who cares….players making more money than ever.

    If we are talking biased…..talked about Florio….100’s of articles basing Goodell. How many commending him?

  21. larryboodry says: Mar 9, 2013 9:59 AM

    So much for a bunch of signings announced at 4:01 pm. Tuesday.

  22. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Mar 9, 2013 10:06 AM

    At least they are consistent with the constancy of stupidity…

  23. immafubared says: Mar 9, 2013 10:22 AM

    This is a confusing mess. First my read the league assumes a player will discuss things with one team only? Duh. In order for said player to shop around, someone in the process has to ‘orally’ state what they will pay the guy if he signs. But the Commissioners edict says no deal can be orally agreed upon.

    All I know of sure if that WHO is on first.

  24. immafubared says: Mar 9, 2013 10:25 AM

    The NFL has seen the success of signing day for college and is obviously trying to build the so called mystery up, hey wait till Tuesday, wow will you be surprised but dam if anyone breaks with ranks and spills the beans before then. Childish.

    All I know is Tuesday is my birthday and he better not screw it up.

  25. demolition510 says: Mar 9, 2013 10:28 AM

    TL;DR

  26. cincyorangenblack says: Mar 9, 2013 10:37 AM

    This is clearly Goodell laying he groundwork for an “NFL free agent signing day” next year or the year after…how do you not see that?

  27. CKL says: Mar 9, 2013 11:06 AM

    lostsok,

    I came to this topic just so say that same thing. Well done. If the new league year and FA starts the day after the SB, it takes all this garbage away. They’d just have to adjust when teams have to be under the cap. Make that a couple weeks before the draft or something. Boom…done.

  28. Dave61548 says: Mar 9, 2013 1:23 PM

    Florio states “The NFL doesn’t pursue tampering cases in part because everyone does it. So now, out of the blue, the NFL threatens a tampering investigation against any team that reaches a tentative agreement during a period expressly allowing everything short of a signed contract? Really?” Yes really – ask the Saints about arbitrary “investigations” for something that all teams do.

    Some team is likely to get hammered for a perceived tampering infraction (real or imagined). And Goodell will triumphantly claim the punishment is all in the name of “player safety”.

  29. dwnhillwhaler says: Mar 9, 2013 1:55 PM

    Who is surprised by this absurdity from a league who still wants to underplay the importance of gambling to their popularity (see article on PFT re. gambling struck down by league and Jersey’s supreme court)

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