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League softens its stance on the legal tampering period

at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 14, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Getty Images

After several years of allowing teams to negotiate with agents during a brief window before the launch of free agency, the NFL is finally moving closer toward getting it right.

In prior years, a nonsensical “look-butdon’t-touch” approach applied, allowing positions to be exchanged but not allowing any actual offers to be made or tentative agreements to be reached — ignoring the possibility that in the exchange of positions the two sides may eventually realize that an overlap exists.

This year, in addition to shortening the window from three days to two (it opens Monday at 12:00 p.m. ET), the NFL has expanded the permissible activities that may occur during the negotiating period.

“During the two-day negotiating period, all clubs may negotiate all aspects of an NFL Player Contract with the certified agent of any prospective UFA,” explains the March 2 memo to all teams, a copy of which PFT has obtained. “However, a new club may not execute an NFL Player Contract with a prospective UFA until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9, when the player’s 2015 contract expires.”

The memo then explains that “the only valid, binding and enforceable employment agreement between an NFL player and an NFL club is an NFL Player Contract that has been fully executed by the parties in compliance with all applicable League rules and the CBA,” and that any discussions regarding possible employment or terms of employment “are non-binding and are unenforceable by the player or the club.”

The memo next lists specific things that cannot be done. Teams cannot execute an NFL contract, execute an agreement in principle or other similar document, announce that an agreement in principle or other similar agreement has been reached, or reach agreement on any undisclosed terms. Also, teams cannot make travel arrangements with a prospective free agent before the launch of free agency, at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Violation of the principles set forth in the memo “may be considered conduct detrimental to the League, as well as a violation of the League’s Anti-Tampering Policy.” The memo warns that, if an investigation is required, the league would seek all relevant documents from the team under suspicion, including email and phone communications, along with a review of documents regarding travel arrangements for the player.

Last year, news leaked one day into the then-three-day period that the Dolphins had struck a deal with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The floodgates then were open, with multiple reports of tentative deals surfacing. The league investigated the Dolphins, but no action was taken.

Even though the new approach is more practical than the procedures from past years, there’s still a gap in logic between what the rules say and how things work. Deals will be negotiated to completion during the two-day window, and agents who hope to continue to be trusted by NFL teams will ensure that the tentative deals are honored, even though the deals technically aren’t done until they’re done.

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25 Responses to “League softens its stance on the legal tampering period”
  1. jag1959 says: Mar 6, 2016 10:20 AM

    As bowing to the obvious and inevitable goes it falls a little short but half a loaf is better than none

  2. llcamino says: Mar 6, 2016 10:20 AM

    Lets be honest, The NFL softened it’s stance completely when they allowed Johnson to tamper with Revis last year.

  3. floratiotime says: Mar 6, 2016 10:27 AM

    Absolutely no one cares about this.

  4. lukedunphysscienceproject says: Mar 6, 2016 10:37 AM

    Nobody cares about this but you.

  5. lscottman3 says: Mar 6, 2016 10:37 AM

    Whatever the Jets and Dolphins do with respect to tampering will be met with the NFL changing the rules to accommodate their rule breaking.

    Nothing to look at here, move along.

  6. birdzflyinhigh says: Mar 6, 2016 10:43 AM

    I never understood this policy or the benefit of it as it only leads to more confusion. Just start FA and get on with one of the more fun offseason events.

  7. zigthepatsfan says: Mar 6, 2016 11:40 AM

    smells like a trap

  8. moochach says: Mar 6, 2016 11:42 AM

    The Jets flunkies that run the league office will change the rules to match whatever Woody is doing. Astonishing that even with the league being in the Jets back pocket every year, Woody can’t even win the division, he takes incompetence to new heights.

  9. pauldeba says: Mar 6, 2016 11:43 AM

    There’s no such thing as “New York time”, that is a confusing, undefined concept. I guess he means Eastern Standard Time, but even then, we don’t know if that is based on Greenwich Mean Time or Coordinated Universal Time. Hopefully, Belichick will take advantage of Goodell’s continual missteps in communicating policy.

  10. beavertonsteve says: Mar 6, 2016 11:44 AM

    For those of you who also follow the NBA, the DeAndre Jordan situation will be here soon.

  11. dillpx183 says: Mar 6, 2016 11:50 AM

    The whole thing is idiotic. Just start FA on Monday. Notify teams and stiffen the penalties for tampering before that period starts so risk out weighs benefits of doing so. Fixed.

    Having a tampering period and expecting teams not too tamper and have soft stance on it is just plain dumb. Only guarantees tampering will continue to occur even prior to this period.

  12. nflpoker says: Mar 6, 2016 12:00 PM

    All this does is shorten the window of the unofficial free agency tampering period a little. Offers, negotiations, will still be done anyway. All the agents and teams have to do is to keep their mouths shut until when actual FA starts. Whoopee.

  13. dccowboy says: Mar 6, 2016 12:01 PM

    So what the league is actually saying is that, for all practical purposes, the new league year begins Monday, 12pm EST. Which means that the ‘tampering period’ actually occurred this weekend (and at the Combine). Maybe they should just recognize reality and move the combine to the week before the start of the new league year and allow ‘tampering’ then.

  14. dccowboy says: Mar 6, 2016 12:02 PM

    LOL, the ‘exchange of positions’ is a joke. Considerable negoitiation can occur by exchanging ‘revised’ positions.

  15. patsbrat says: Mar 6, 2016 12:13 PM

    “…Also, teams cannot make travel arrangements with a prospective free agent before the launch of free agency, at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.”

    Yet 2 posts above this one is a story about Laurinaitis visiting Atlanta on Monday.

    It is so dumb that negotiation window opens on Monday and no travel is allowed until Wednesday.

  16. a1b24312 says: Mar 6, 2016 1:18 PM

    FA should start the day after the SB and thats it.

  17. a1b24312 says: Mar 6, 2016 1:19 PM

    Same with coaching chgs – no new hires until the day after the SB. And no negotiating, rwal or otherwise, until then.

  18. harrisonhits2 says: Mar 6, 2016 1:23 PM

    The league has never cared about tampering and has always buried it with no punishment except in the most blatant of cases.

    Even then its a slap on the wrist.

  19. realtruthteller100 says: Mar 6, 2016 1:28 PM

    just another case of the league becoming soft, smh

  20. Patskrieg says: Mar 6, 2016 3:12 PM

    This is a year after vowing to crack down on tampering and pretending to do an Elliot Ness raid across the NFL looking for tampering evidence. What did it uncover? A plain sight infraction on the Jets that the league punished with a minuscule $30K fine. Here we are again right back at square one wondering how our bipolar commissioner feels about tampering again.

  21. sopadegato says: Mar 6, 2016 3:49 PM

    llcamino says:

    Lets be honest, The NFL softened it’s stance completely when they allowed Johnson to tamper with Revis last year.

    —————————————

    The Jets getting away with shenanigans? We’ll just have to add that to the list. Taping other teams illegally? Check. Tampering with footballs? Check. Tampering, Check.

  22. tjacks7 says: Mar 6, 2016 5:04 PM

    patsbrat says:

    “…Also, teams cannot make travel arrangements with a prospective free agent before the launch of free agency, at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.”

    Yet 2 posts above this one is a story about Laurinaitis visiting Atlanta on Monday.

    It is so dumb that negotiation window opens on Monday and no travel is allowed until Wednesday.

    Uhhhh.. Laurinaitis was cut, meaning he is not under contract and has been free to visit and sign with anyone he wants. Free agents with expiring contracts have to wait until their contracts expire on Wednesday to sign with a new team. Two totally different situations.

  23. mongo3401 says: Mar 6, 2016 5:20 PM

    Just call it a legal tampering period enhances the chances of more tampering then the rules allow. Just for the gun and let the. All have a go at it.

  24. dandeman19 says: Mar 6, 2016 7:41 PM

    it’ll be legal til the Pats do it. When they do legals and are successful at them the league and owners panic and have to make it illegal

  25. icedvike5000 says: Mar 6, 2016 8:04 PM

    The fact that you can discuss the parameters of a deal, and then not announce it is the problem with this whole thing, and the fact that no visits are allowed before the deal is signed on the new league year day, is still pretty hypocritical in my eyes. If you want to do it right, let the players travel to the picked destination, and sample the facilities for a couple days, make the deal parameters, and then sign it on the new year of the league day if the deal is in place. It makes no sense to make deals without the player checking things out anyway. And lets get real, the press is going to find out one way or another who is talking to who, and chances are, a lot of them have been talking for weeks or months. The league is not being realistic about what really goes on so they can find an excuse to punish a team or player and they just play dumb. All this needs to stop. I would have a 2 week trial and error period for free agents to take visits and get it right before signing a deal. then if they agree, they can still wait to sign the deal on the day the league wants.

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