Welcome To Legal Tampering Season
It is now the eighth day of March in 2014, meaning that the beginning of free agency in the NFL is just three days away. That also means that NFL teams, beginning at noon, will be able to openly negotiate with certified player agents—or players who represent themselves—on contracts, though those contracts cannot be executed until the official beginning of free agency on March 11 at 4 PM.
That’s right: at noon today, it will officially be legal tampering season.
Players set to hit free agency remain under contract with their 2013 teams until 4 PM on Tuesday, and it’s deemed tampering for teams to openly discuss interest in players employed by another team.
That is until recently when this three-day window was created, retroactively vindicating the illegal tampering that has been going on between teams and players unofficially for—well, probably for the entire history of the league.
Up until noon, only the Steelers can officially talk shop with their own pending free agents, many of whom they would like to re-sign, including wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, defensive lineman Al Woods, and running back Jonathan Dwyer.
Of course, they can still work out a deal with these players at any point. Noon just means everybody can negotiate contracts with them as well. Only the Steelers, however, can complete that contract until Tuesday evening.
The Steelers were active at this time last year, using this window to sign a few of their own, including, if I recall correctly, Larry Foote, Plaxico Burress, and Ramon Foster. Of course, two of those don’t figure to be on the team this year. Foote was released just recently and Burress will be a free agent.
The front office certainly hasn’t been silent up to this point, releasing three players, extending two, and restructuring another, but they did sign one of their own unrestricted free agents so far to this point.
The team has yet to announce it officially, but they appear to have re-signed safety Will Allen, according to the player’s agent. He played a vital role as the dime safety over the last two months of the season.
The Steelers have three more days to get their house in order before they start worrying about raiding the houses of others in search of other teams’ unrestricted free agents, which, for once, they appear to be in a position to do.
Before that happens, however, they still have some salary cap space to clear, and likely want to sign a few more of their own before Tuesday to give them a better picture of their needs among free agents and leading up to the draft. This legal tampering period is a good time to find out what’s available elsewhere before running the risk of losing their own.