At 12:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, agents representing players who become free agents on Tuesday will be permitted to begin negotiating with new teams. The NFL has sent a memo to all teams outlining the rules of the looming three-day window.
PFT has obtained a copy of the memo. Here are the highlights.
1. A team is allowed to submit a written summary of its negotiating position to agents for free agents still under contract with other teams, including length of contract, signing bonus, compensation, and related subjects.
2. A team is allowed to adjust its negotiating position based on the position presented by a player’s agent.
3. While negotiations may occur, teams must say that they are not making offers.
4. Teams cannot execute contracts with free agents from other teams, submit a draft contract, enter into an express or implied agreement or make any promises about the terms that would be available once the free-agency period opens, or provide assurances of intent as to the future execution of a contract.
5. Teams also cannot discuss or make travel arrangements for a player to visit once the market opens, or to communicate directly with a player.
6. If a player has no agent, the team can’t negotiate with the player at all.
7. The period applies only to looming unrestricted free agents; it doesn’t include restricted free agents or players who have been tagged.
“You are reminded that the purpose of the three-day negotiating period is to create a level playing field in the competition for Unrestricted Free Agents, by permitting clubs to express interest in a prospective UFA and to exchange information with certified agents regarding the level of compensation envisioned by the club and the agent,” the memo states. “Any attempt to undermine the purpose of this negotiating period may be considered conduct detrimental to the League.”
Some of the rules are illogical. It’s impossible to negotiate without making and exchanging offers. And while teams are prohibited from making representations that the negotiating positions will become offers once Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET arrives, why else would the teams be outlining negotiating positions?
In theory, a team could toss around inflated negotiating positions without delivering once the market opens. But if a team starts behaving that way, agents won’t trust those teams — which will make it harder for those teams to do business.
Regardless of the annual “thou shalt not” memo from the league, these negotiating positions are offers. What else could they be? Any other approach ignores the reality of transacting business in the NFL.
The goal is to give a team that currently holds a player’s rights one last chance to sign the player based on the market that likely will emerge for his services. In that respect, it helps players get paid.
Still, like plenty of other rules promulgated by the NFL, the words on paper don’t harmonize with the way things truly operate.