Last Saturday, the NFL opened for the first time in a non-lockout year a three-day window for negotiating with agents for upcoming free agents. Given that the league used a similar period after the 2011 lockout, it was widely assumed that agreements in principle could be reached during this period, as long as the contracts weren’t formally executed until after the launch of free agency.
Then, on the day before the window opened, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo that essentially closed it, scaring teams into not talking the same type of turkey they had intended with a threat of the least-used weapon in the NFL arsenal: the tampering investigation.
Through it all, it was clear that teams and agents “may not discuss or make any travel arrangements” until the launch of free agency. Which makes the first paragraph from an article by Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com particularly interesting.
“It was Monday night, and Mike DeVito was getting ready for a flight to Kansas City,” Cimini writes. “There was an offer on the table from the Chiefs — a good offer — and he was leaving the next day to sign it.”
Those facts, apparently gleaned from a phone interview with DeVito, suggest a violation of the letter and spirit of the restrictions on the negotiating window. And before Chiefs fans start accusing us of trying to start trouble for their team, we mention this only because the March 8 memo expressly threatened tampering investigations, and because most teams had seemed to be scared into not doing anything that could cross the line.
In the end, it could be that teams were crossing the line, but insisting on discretion from agents.
Regardless, the process apparently gave teams a chance to understand the market for unrestricted free agents — and essentially kill it.