You’ve surely heard a time or two by now that free agency begins on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET. Technically, that’s accurate. As a practical matter, free agency will largely be over by then.
A decade or so ago, the NFL introduced a legal tampering period, an acknowledgement to the rampant tampering that happens in advance of free agency. Starting on Monday at noon ET, teams can communicate and negotiate with agents of players who are due to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday. For self-represented players, the teams can contact them directly.
Early in the life cycle of legal tampering, the league had strange rules that permitted negotiation but prohibited consummation. That has changed, and it means that reports will become rampant (starting as soon as 12:01 p.m. ET on Monday) that deals have been reached.
That happens because the tampering still happens before the legal tampering period opens. It’s happening now. It’s been happening. Everyone does it. The teams that used to not do it realized that their adherence to the rules had become a competitive disadvantage.
If you don’t show up until Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, you will have missed the party. So show up early, and bring the potato salad.