The league should get rid of the legal tampering window

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Free agency began five days ago. But it actually began a week ago, when the legal tampering window opened.

For the first time since the league adopted a negotiating period that implicitly acknowledged the rampant tampering that happens before the official launch of free agency (and ideally ended it), the negotiating period has unfolded in a way that made the illegal tampering even more obvious. Within minutes after the legal tampering window opened, for example, the Raiders and tackle Trent Brown had a four-year, $66 million deal in place. So either Brown accepted the first offer that came from the Raiders (highly unlikely) or the deal was largely done before the time for talking began (very likely).

Brown was the first but not the last. More and more deals were reported throughout Monday and into Tuesday. By the time the party officially began on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, the confetti had fallen, the whiskey bottles had been emptied, and the cigars had been smoked down to a nub.

Thus, if illegal tampering has once again become obvious even with a legal tampering window in place — and if more and more of these deals are going to be reported and dissected long before the free-agency period actually commences — the league should just get rid of the legal tampering window and return to the days when the race starts as the green flag waves, and not multiple laps before.

There’s an important business reason for eliminating the false start to free agency. The NFL currently enjoys three major offseason tentpoles: the Scouting Combine, free agency, and the draft. When the audience believes free agency begins at 4:00 p.m ET on a Wednesday but by Monday night it’s already over, the NFL does a poor job of maximizing the intense interest that naturally and organically by the free-agency process.

A simple fix exists. Instead of opening a legal free agency period, start free agency. So what is there’s tampering before then? Everyone does it, and rarely does anyone get punished for it.

16 responses to “The league should get rid of the legal tampering window

  1. Part of what happened this year is that agreements were made a couple of days before signing the contract. The good thing about this was that it gave players a chance to change their minds. This happened at least once.

  2. To be fair this year free agency began when mr. Big chest had his gym meltdown and told the world he wasn’t going back to the Steelers. To assess your point, I guess those 48 hours of legal tampering give the GM’s a little more time to cut the fluff with the agents and get to the point of what is really what. Whether it should be scrapped, I don’t know. Not sure what REALLY goes on behind the scenes.

  3. They will get rid of it but not until they can somehow connect the Patriots with it….. THEN & ONLY THEN will it become a blatant form of cheating & rule bending that 1st round draft picks will again need to be STOLEN……. you know it’s true…..& you probably sit home and wait in anticipation of exactly that outcome to unfold…….after all it’s all about INTEGRITY & the NFL SHIELD…..
    I guess until that time comes I’ll just have to get by on the Patriots 6th Lombardi Championship…..

  4. In baseball, free agency starts basically the minute the World Series ends. That used to work quite well, back when free agents got signed quickly.

  5. Mayock explained what happened with Trent Brown and Antonio Brown. They have the same agent. You accused Gruden of talking with AB about 400 cutups before he was officially signed. Mayock disputes that claim.

  6. A simple fix exists. Instead of opening a legal free agency period, start free agency. So what is there’s tampering before then? Everyone does it, and rarely does anyone get punished for it.

    Isn’t this sort of the argument against PEDs? I don’t care if any or all of these freak athletes take PEDs to be even stronger/faster/recover faster, etc…it’s not my body, and it will only create more athletic insanity to watch.

    BUT it’s an advantage over the clean players. To say “meh, many teams tamper, so who cares?” is unfair to the teams who actually are playing by the rules (if any).

    The simple fix is actually to punish the teams and potentially even the players if they engage with the teams. Something like a 5th-6th rounder and some cash for first offenses and escalating from there. Maybe a fine for the player/agent.

    That is, if the NFL cares at all about enforcing their own rules.

  7. I didn’t get any impression whatsoever that the “legal tampering” window reduced “the intense interest” of fans in the free agent process.

  8. The tampering rules are meant to protect the player’s “current team,” giving them a chance to negotiate before the player can negotiate with anyone else (and see bigger offers). For most of the players that sign immediately after free agency starts, their current team already knew they’d walk.
    Now, if we remove the tampering protections, teams will want something in return- possibly some watered down version of the franchise tag- where they can squeeze a player a little more before they can move on. Something that is limited, and not worth wasting on a guy that is definitely leaving, but gives the team a slight advantage.

  9. Here’s a better question — why is the start of the new league year more than a month after the Super Bowl? There’s too much time in between, and it makes tampering almost inevitable.

  10. One week after the Superbowl let things open up! BUT STOP letting teams negotiate with coaches who are in the middle of a playoff run. That is a CRAZY stupid system.

  11. In terms of entertainment, this year was the most exciting year yet. Hard to argue the NFL needs to change anything if that’s a consideration.

  12. Legal Tampering is an oxymoron. If it’s tampering, it is breaking the rules. We don’t have legal burglary, do we? And because these agreements are not binding, it gives players and management a chance to back out. That’s nonsense. Either start free agency earlier or let everyone wait. There is really no way the league can know if a team and player have been negotiating.

  13. Let’s get to the nub of it and stop with the nonsense. You don’t like it because negotiations and explorations are happening out of your sight, leaving you to whine about it after the fact and unable to weigh in to influence it.

  14. Most people don’t care. I had great fun trying to keep up with all the news during the tampering period. Nobody I know cared that it might be a day or two before these contracts were final. You’ll need a more compelling argument than what you’ve written here before you’re going to convince anyone – the players, the owners, the agents, or the fans.

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