The NFL free agency negotiation period got underway at 9 a.m. PT this morning. Teams cannot sign players until Tuesday, but for now they can negotiate with agents. The boost in the salary cap could make for a more interesting negotiating period. Last year we heard a few rumors, but it did not seem quite as crazy as we might have expected.
This year, that might be different. Here are Drew Rosenhaus' first three tweets of the morning:
GAME TIME!!— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) March 8, 2014
And we are off and running!— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) March 8, 2014
What a difference a year makes! Free agency will be a lot better this year— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) March 8, 2014
It's entirely possible Rosenhaus is full of crap with that final tweet, but without referencing a specific player, maybe he's already getting a flurry of offers. Free agency is always interesting, but maybe we'll see things get a little wilder this time around. Offers could be flying back and forth at a level not seen since before the current CBA.
Oh wait, according to the NFL, there are no "offers" during the negotiating period. Albert Breer tweeted out a memo the NFL sent out to general managers, head coaches and personnel directors. The memo mentions what is and is not permitted during this period.
Fooch's Note: Rosenhaus client CB Sam Shields agreed to a 4-year, $39 million deal. I think we know why Rosenhaus was so fired up.
The league allows teams to "contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expirations of their 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 11." That means restricted free agents, and players tagged as franchise or transition players are not allowed to talk with other teams during this period. Additionally, if a player represents himself, he is not allowed to negotiate with other teams during this period.
All that is relatively straight forward. It's a little unfair to players representing themselves, but at least it's clear. It gets a little bizarre after that. According to the memo, teams are allowed to do the following:
- Submit a written summary of the club’s negotiating position to a certified agent;
- Express its position as to signing bonus, length of contract, amounts of signing bonus and yearly compensation, and other items;
- Adjust its negotiating position in response to a certified agent’s position; and
- Engage in an oral exchange of positions.
The league makes clear that, "[a] club must express that it is stating a negotiating position, not making an offer. No part of the exchange of information is binding on either party."
The memo states that a team cannot do the following:
- Execute a contract;
- Submit a draft of an NFL Player Contract to a certified agent or the player;
- Make an "offer;"
- Enter into a written or oral agreement of any kind, express or implied, or make promises or representations of any type concerning the terms or conditions of employment to be offered to any Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year;
- Provide assurances of intent as to the future execution of an NFL Player Contract;
- Announce an agreement or an agreement in principle; or
- Discuss or make travel arrangements for a player.
So, according to this, a team can "express [their] position as to signing bonus, length of contract, amounts of signing bonus and yearly compensation, and other items", in either oral or written form, but they cannot make an "offer". And they can change their position based on what the agent says or writes in response to that expression of their position.
It seems ridiculous, but from the perspective of contract law, it's all about the nuances. In reality, sides will agree to deals over the next three days that will likely be accepted shortly after 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday. But for now both sides can get out of whatever "offers" are made before then. It's word games to some extent, and kind of amusing considering what we all know actually happens.
And this ignores the fact that agents and teams have had discussions in some form or fashion dating as far back as the NFL Combine. It's another example of the NFL sticking their head in the sand, but hey, what are you gonna do, right?