Bill O’Brien is right: Free agency rules need to change

AP

The rule preventing players from talking to teams during the legal tampering period needs to go, in part because it’s routinely disregarded. But the NFL needs to do much more than simply allow the head coach of a team that wants to sign a free agent talk to the player before negotiations between team and agent result in an agreement in principle.

The NFL needs to allow players to make visits to teams during the negotiating window.

“There really should be a period where, say a week before free agency, a guy can make some trips,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien recently told Peter King of TheMMQB.com. “Without that, you have to find a way to research guys, but without seeing him and talking to him face-to-face, there’s always going to be something missing.”

O’Brien is right. Though many were surprised by the fact that he didn’t meet Brock Osweiler before the Texans committed $72 million to the former Broncos quarterback, no one should have been surprised at all, because that’s the nature of the current system. For the most attractive free agents, the deals necessarily are done sight unseen during the negotiating window, because teams want certainty. If the player they’ve targeted won’t be signing with the team that’s trying to sign him, the team moves on to the next guy. And the next.

So why not expand the window and allow for teams and players to talk, to meet, and to otherwise reduce as much uncertainty from the process as possible?

What if Osweiler and O’Brien simply don’t click, from a personality standpoint? That same question applies to the Giants and their trio of high-priced free agents, and to any other team that negotiated an agreement in principle based simply on money.

The teams should want to know more about who they are paying, and the players should want to know more about the teams they’re getting the money from. The league’s current structure, however, creates a land rush that results in the flag being planted by a guy who is largely blindfolded.

31 responses to “Bill O’Brien is right: Free agency rules need to change

  1. Maybe teams just shouldn’t be in such a rush to throw mounds of money at newcomers. If the Texans weren’t comfortable signing him sight unseen they should have let somebody else take that risk. The system isn’t the problem. The impatience of teams who have millions burning a hole in their pockets is really the bigger problem.

  2. Or you could just, you know, open up free agency and get rid of the ridiculous 72 hour legal tampering.

  3. Simple in the current rule. All the team has to do is get permission from the contracted team permission to meet with the player. What is so hard about asking when the team owning the contract is “over the barrel” with the player?

  4. I don’t understand why the window would need to be change. There was absolutely nothing preventing the Texans from meeting with Osweiler before agreeing to pay him $72 million, and similarly nothing preventing Osweiler from meeting with the team before making a decision. The contract didn’t need to be agreed to and announced literally before the window even officially opened. The fact that the Texans agreed to a $72 million deal without meeting him first just tells me that the Texans were desperate, not that the rules need changed.

    The “Texans wanted certainty” excuse doesn’t hold water. True certainty would be, you know, actually meeting with Osweiler rather than agreeing to pay $72 million for a shiny object that you didn’t inspect.

  5. This:

    touchdownroddywhite says:
    Mar 30, 2016 10:41 AM
    …The system isn’t the problem. The impatience of teams who have millions burning a hole in their pockets is really the bigger problem…

    I smell a huge free agency bust in the making.

  6. So why not expand the window and allow for teams and players to talk, to meet, and to otherwise reduce as much uncertainty from the process as possible?
    ______

    Because that would make too much sense.

  7. They are spending millions and millions of dollars and only have a short period f time to make their decision to give them the money or not. 72 hrs is not enough time

  8. “Legal tampering period” think about that phrase for a moment. It is preposterous that as part of the process they can’t have ‘legal’ conversations. Understanding that FA in the NFL can’t start immediately after the playoffs like it does in MLB since the new cap number has to be set, tags applied and RFA’s tendered, a month after the SB is just too long a period. Never mind the 2 months between the end of the regular season and the new league year for the 20 teams that don’t make the playoffs. Anyone who thinks teams and agents aren’t busy during that time is beyond naive.

  9. What if Osweiler and O’Brien simply don’t click, from a personality standpoint?

    Well, I would say that O’Brien and Osweiler would need to get over themselves and be professionals about their relationship seeing as how it is work, not a recreational league. The Texans are handing you millions of dollars to win football games, not be buddies.

  10. stealthjunk says:

    “The fact that the Texans agreed to a $72 million deal without meeting him first just tells me that the Texans were desperate, not that the rules need changed.”

    So what you’re saying is that every team that signed a player on the first day of free agency is “desperate? ”
    Something tells me that you’re a Broncos fan.

  11. No one is being forced to sign anyone during that first 72 hr period; if you want to meet and talk to a player, line up a visit before you shell out the money. I don’t see any reason to change it !

  12. Make it like college, free agent players visit teams during an open time frame. Then they make it for TV and have a national free agent signing day and they tell the world where they are taking their talents by putting on a hat and the NFL has a bigger free agent spectacle.

    Rather then all these leaks from the media where we all know ahead of time between players and teams bringing less excitement of who is going where.

    Cmon 4 hats sitting in from of the player and then he grabs one only to throw it in the trash can thinking he is going to your team then grabbing another and putting it on. Wow!! That is tv.

    I mean the shield is all about $$$$ you can’t tell me that this wouldn’t be a huge TV show where the top free agents are going to announce the team of choice. Ratings galore instead of it being reported by Schefter, Glaser, or Rappaport. This could change the format all the way around.

  13. stealthjunk says:
    Mar 30, 2016 10:52 AM

    The “Texans wanted certainty” excuse doesn’t hold water. True certainty would be, you know, actually meeting with Osweiler rather than agreeing to pay $72 million for a shiny object that you didn’t inspect.

    —–

    You’re missing the point. “Certainty” in this context means that they want to be certain they’ll be able to sign him, not whether or not he’s a fit. That’s the problem. If Houston didn’t make the leap of faith, some other team would have.

    Deals made like this result in poor fits and poor performances, but under the current system, they happen every year. This means that future big-name free agents are going to underperform in general, and that not only hurts teams, but also hurts the game.

    And you can’t say “shame on you” to teams that pull the trigger too early. It’s just how the rules force the market to operate, and that’s why it should change.

  14. Free agency is all about super rich guys throwing money to rich guys in an effort to make more money.

  15. It is nearly impossible for me to agree with MF on this, 100%. If some of you could drop that “rich man” resentment for a moment, you would see your team (and mine) might benefit the most. Even some players might gain a “better fit”. Holy smokes, it might be a win, win, win deal. I know from experience it is tough, but try to have an open mind on this.

  16. The NFL could adopt the NBA’s moratorium period. From July 1 – 8th, NBA teams reach deals in principle but contracts are not signed until after that period. NBA teams can meet with players during that time. NFL could do the same, I agree.

  17. People can meet with players on an unlimited basis- starting as soon as FA starts.

    What is being proposed is “do anything except sign”, one step beyond is which “do anything”. In oter words, we are creeping toward just moving the FA period up, which means that the cheating just starts earlier.

    Why? Because the whole point is to get an edge on the competition. That stays the same no matter what, so the cheating is eternal and omnipresent. The only solution is- still- to have a hard deadline and nail the cheaters, then encourage competitors to blow the whistle on the cheaters. The best deterrent to cheating is nasty consequences from getting caught. You really need this illegal cpnversation, and even more than you need a second round pick? OK!

  18. Seems very simple if you eliminate the legal tampering period! Then free agency starts when free agency is supposed to start.

  19. That would be just like the draft, where a guy could drop his stock if he’s not well liked in a visit, or someone spread a rumor he wasn’t well liked on one of five free agent visits. Free agency is supposed to benefit the players where they have control.

  20. “And you can’t say “shame on you” to teams that pull the trigger too early. It’s just how the rules force the market to operate, and that’s why it should change.”

    I certainly can ! The rules don’t FORCE anyone to act this way. The only reason for a team to do this is to try to beat everyone else out of a particular player.
    The only reason for the player to agree ….. well to me, there is no good reason for a player to agree to a contract without meeting the team.
    In Osweiler’s case I would think that Houston’s offer would be there after the 72 hour start….. why wouldn’t it be ? Did they only want to sign him if he wasn’t able to shop himself ?
    Houston was in such a hurry to sign him that didn’t care if they talked to him, so now they want to change the rules ????? BS

  21. he is right about so little!! we’ll give him this.

    resume of a qb guru lol

    Brown (1993)
    Tight ends coach
    Brown (1994)
    Inside linebackers coach
    Georgia Tech (1995–1997)
    Graduate assistant
    Georgia Tech (1998–2000)
    Running backs coach
    Georgia Tech (2001–2002)(two yrs and the ran the wishbone under Johnson)
    Offensive coordinator & quarterbacks coach
    Maryland (2003–2004)
    Running backs coach
    Duke (2005–2006) not sure about their offense
    Offensive coordinator & quarterbacks coach
    New England Patriots (2007)
    Offensive assistant
    New England Patriots (2008)
    Wide receivers coach
    New England Patriots (2009–2010)(Tom Brady won SB before he got there)
    Quarterbacks coach
    New England Patriots (2011)
    Offensive coordinator
    Penn State (2012–2013)
    Head coach
    Houston Texans (2014–present

  22. There’s no reason why players shouldn’t be able to talk to other teams after the Super Bowl is over (and the season is thus over). Being a free agent means you’re an unemployed football player. What’s wrong with unemployed players going out on interviews and looking for work?

    I’m surprised the NFL doesn’t require free agency to start during primetime so they can broadcast it (hype the daylights out of it) on their network. They could have TMZ-like coverage of every waking moment in the lives of players waiting to be signed. That network is basically tabloid news anyway – along with being the league’s official mouthpiece.

  23. Coach Callahan has a valid point. The NFL decides there should be a free tampering period. Cmon’ man !?
    It’s a farce. No deals are suppose to be consummated in that time frame yet they report agreements all day long.

    There should be a 2 week visiting period prior to free agency. You can talk deals but no signings or legal agreements.

    Currently teams put the heat on agents and players in free agency. Deals are offered to sign NOW. Walk out the door and the deal is off the table. That’s what happens.
    Is it right ???? Maybe, maybe not, but I don’t like the way they’re doing it now.
    Legal Tampering. That’s an oxymoron. So is the system.

  24. LOL EXCUSE ME COACH BUT… that IS what GM’s and personnel departments are FOR isn’t it? RESEARCH? I realize that the college draft is coming up BUT, it isn’t as if they haven’t had ALL SEASON to research this year’s crop of FA’s! NOR is it as if they have NO CLUE what positions they’ll be needing to fill (unless of course the people in YOUR “ORGANIZATION” don’t talk to one another about such things).

  25. A pre-signing meeting only benefits the team. It’s not as if the team will meet the player and offer him more.

    There’s always going to be another team in the wings. Look at the mess of some of the QB situations in the NFL, Denver included. Houston needed to gamble on Osweiler. If they hadn’t Cleveland or the Jets would have done the exact same thing.

  26. It hasn’t stopped the smart teams from succeeding. Why reward incompetence? Besides, owners would never go for it. It would lead to many expensive mistakes by allowing coaches to make expensive decisions based on interviews and workouts. Maybe instead, some teams should upgrade their personnel departments if necessary. Didn’t Mike Nolan choose Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers because he liked his interview better? Smith ended up getting Nolan fired. That worked out great.

  27. I can understand that rival teams aren’t supposed to meet with players that are still under contract to a team. Fine. And I understand teams don’t want to ‘miss out’ on a player they are targeting, and therefore prepare monster contracts to players and offer them just minutes after (or before) free agency ‘officially’ opens up. But teams need to be responsible for the risks that they take. However, there is a case to be made that the free agency period should be similar to the pre-draft period. Teams are allowed to speak with players prior to the draft. They can work them out, interview them, have them into their training facility, etc. Should teams be allowed to do the same with free agents? I’d say yes, particularly given the amount of money that could be offered. So, what is the answer? Simple. Have contracts for players end one week prior to teams being allowed to officially sign free agents. This way, teams can do their due diligence, and players can visit all teams they are interested in signing with to see who has the best offer, both from a contract standpoint and facilities, systems, coaching philosophies, etc. Why would that be a bad thing?

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