Technically, free agency begins on March 12th. However, the NFL has decided that as of midnight tonight, teams can legally ‘tap up’ players until Tuesday. No visits, no officially concluded deals. Just a lot of talking with agents and deals ‘in principle’.
Now that the NFL is launching a three-day legal tampering window, the key term will be “agreement in principle.” Even though contracts can’t be signed until Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, non-binding deals can be struck — like the non-binding arrangement between the 49ers and Chiefs to trade Alex Smith once the new league year begins.
With the league trying to create an NCAA-style “signing day,” it’s safe to say teams will be discouraged from announcing agreements in principle with players who can’t be signed until Tuesday. Still, it’s inevitable that word of agreements in principle will leak; even if teams don’t issue a press release, they’ll be wise to get the word out, so that other teams will back off.
It’s a bit of a bizarre situation. We’ll get all the speculation, all the talking. By Tuesday we’ll have a good idea of what’s going to go down. And yet nothing will be finalised over the weekend. It sounds a bit like a kid finding his Christmas presents before the big day.
Of course, there’s always a chance for some of this…
With this whole “signing day” concept the NFL is floating, I wonder if the negotiating period rings in another CFB staple: De-commitments.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 9, 2013
So what about the Seahawks? They’ve already visited with Cullen Jenkins and John Abraham. They’ve contacted the representatives of Charles Woodson. All three can be signed at any point as they were released from their current contracts.
I suspect the Seahawks will seriously consider adding a veteran pass rusher. With Abraham, Osi Umenyiora and Dwight Freeney on the market, there are options out there. Cliff Avril and Paul Kruger will end up signing big bucks elsewhere. If nobody offers obscene money to the other three, they become realistic options for the Seahawks.
Then I think it’ll be about value. Who made it through the first stage of free agency when the big money was spent? Who is willing to consider a cheaper deal? Who suddenly sees the opportunity to join a contender as a big positive?
Improving the pass rush remains the key. Getting someone to act as a stop-gap during Chris Clemons’ recovery would be useful. Abraham — with ten sacks in 2012 — looks like the best (and perhaps cheapest) option of the three experienced free agents. He’s also minus a ring (Umenyiora has two, Freeney has one). It always helps to have a bit of fire still burning away.
One stumbling block to any potential courtship of Abraham is the 49ers. Having entertained Cullen Jenkins after his visit to Seattle, the former Falcons pass rusher is due to stop off in the Bay Area next.
I’m not expecting any fireworks this year. It could be as modest as the re-signing of Alan Branch and a couple of other low-profile deals. The fun thing about this front office is they keep you guessing. The games begin at midnight tonight.
Other names it might be worth watching: Fred Davis (TE), Robert Geathers (DE/DT), Desmond Bryant (DT), Phillip Wheeler (LB), Delanie Walker (TE), Ricky Jean-Francois (DT), Isaac Sopoaga (DT)
Update — according to Jason La Canfora the NFL is trying to ice their own ‘negotiating window’. They put out a memo essentially telling teams they can’t agree deals in principle.
This memo seems intent on putting a chill on any of that — the full memo is attached — and makes explicit that even agreeing in principle to a contract that would be contingent on a physical next week would be prohibited. It came as a surprise to many execs and agents and has created quite a stir as to how to proceed with contact tonight.It’s also struck many as odd, given that the creation of this negotiating window seemed designed to curtail tampering and create a climate where deals could be effectively struck but not fully consummated.
So what is the point of all this then? Maybe this weekend will be pretty quiet after all?