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Up next: the NFL free agency legal tampering period

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We take a look at what the NFL free agency legal tampering period is as well as the rest of the key offseason dates for 2018.

The deadline for teams to designate franchise or transition tag players has passed and, as expected, the San Francisco 49ers did not use it. The NFL Combine is also over, which means next up is free agency. More specifically, next up is the free agency “legal tampering” period, which is an incredibly dumb term and idea that makes no logical sense but exists anyway.

The new league year begins on March 14, and at that point, free agents can sign with any team they want. The legal tampering period begins on the morning of March 12, and allows agents to players scheduled to hit free agency to enter into negotiations with other teams.

Under the rules of this period, an actual deal cannot be signed and agreed to between an impending free agent and a new team. Players are not allowed to meet with other teams — only their agents can.

But it’s a set of rules that have been broken a dozen times, and tampering has probably been happening since the combine got underway in Indianapolis. Sure, the 49ers met with Carlos Hyde’s agent to talk about potentially getting a deal done ... and they probably also talked to a lot of agents for a lot of players about those players, even if they weren’t supposed to.

Plus, of course, we’ll see deals signed immediately after free agency opens proper at 1 p.m. PT on March 14, deals that could never have been finished in the span of seconds following the opening of the new league year and definitely agreed upon well before it was technically allowed. It’s also a period where a lot of discussions happen just to drive up a particular player’s value. It’s a mess, much like the reporting at the combine.

I’m just glad Fooch will be back by the time it starts. Below, I’ve included an updated list of other key offseason dates.

MARCH

March 12-14: Legal tampering period — Agents for players scheduled to hit free agency on March 14th may enter into contract negotiations with other teams

March 14: The deadline for all teams to exercise option clauses and submit offers & tenders to their 2017 RFAs & ERFAs occurs at 1 p.m. PST. After 1 p.m. the new league year begins. Player contracts ending in 2017 expire and free agency begins. All teams must be under the salary cap with their top 51 players. The 2018 trading period also begins at 1 p.m. EST.

March 25-28: Annual league meeting — Orlando, Fla.

APRIL

April 2: Offseason workout programs can begin for teams who hired a new head coach.

April 16: Offseason workout programs can begin for all other teams. — First time since 2014 the 49ers will start the program in the later period

April 20: The deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.

April 26-28: 2018 NFL Draft — Arlington, Texas — Full list of 49ers picks

MAY

May 4-7 OR 11-14: Teams may hold three-day rookie mini camp.

May 14: Rookie Football Development Programs begin.

May 17-20: NFLPA Rookie Premiere — Los Angeles, CA

May 21-23: Spring League Meeting — Atlanta, Georgia.

JUNE

June 1: Last day for teams to put a “June 1 Tender” on their unsigned RFAs who they sent a qualifying offer to. A player must have a “June 1 Tender” put on them in order to qualify for a “June 15 Tender.”

June 15: The deadline for teams to cancel their offers to Restricted Free Agents while still retaining exclusive negotiating rights by substituting a “June 15 Tender.”

Late June: Rookies must attend their team’s Rookie Transition Program.

JULY

July 16: Teams have until 1 p.m. PT to sign their franchise tagged player to a multi-year deal. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract and the contract cannot be extended until after the team’s final regular season game

Mid-July: Teams may open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players a week before it opens for returning veterans. Veteran players may report to preseason training camp on whichever date is later: they may either report on July 15 or they may report 15 days prior to the team’s first preseason game. Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may report five days earlier than other veteran players.

July 23: The deadline for teams to sign their transition tagged player. If the tender is not signed, the team retains exclusive negotiating rights until after Week 10 of the regular season.

AUGUST

August 2: Hall of Fame Game — Canton, Ohio

August 7: Players under contract must report to their clubs by this date to earn an accrued season for free agency purposes. Unsigned draft picks cannot be traded in 2018 after this date and may sign only with the team that drafted them until the 2019 NFL Draft begins.

SEPTEMBER

September 1: Teams cut their preseason rosters down to 53. 1 p.m. PST deadline. Teams must set the regular season status for players on the preseason PUP and NFI lists.

September 2: Waiver claims for players cut in the cut to 53 end at 9 a.m. PST. Teams may establish their 10-player practice squads starting at 10 a.m. PST.

September 5: The Top 51 Rule expires for all NFL teams at 9 p.m. PST. All teams must be under the cap limit with their full 53 player rosters.

September 6, 9-10: 2018 regular season begins!