Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings may end up in Minnesota with Adrian Peterson by this time next week. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency: The unofficial start before the official start

Remember the days when NFL team officials would sneak around with cloaks and daggers trying to find out the best way to get to the players that they really wanted to sign in free agency? Well, those days are gone thanks to the rules that now allow teams to legally “tamper” and get in on the ground floor of free agents – at least they now have the ability to talk to agents of the players they covet.

Beginning Friday, the unofficial start to free agency begins at midnight. No, players can’t be signed but teams can talk to them through their agents about contracts and dollar amounts – in other words, they can get a leg up, get the language and numbers set and then when the official opening of free agency comes around at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday, March 12, all the players have to do is sign on the dotted line.

Of course, the news will have already broken as teams and agents are expected to leak out the details of deals worked out over the weekend – so, all you free agent junkies out there, keep your ears on the rails as the news breaks. We’ll be listening, too.

With the official start of Free Agency on Tuesday, players can sign deals worked out over the weekend and teams can offer players contracts. Something that most don’t think about in the NFL – the trade season – also begins on this date. Trades can be made from Tuesday, March 12, through the deadline in October.

Here are the official rules of the unofficial free agent period offered by Greg Bedard of

  • Period starts at midnight on Saturday and ends at 3:59 p.m. on Tuesday. So, it’s actually about 8887 hours long (with daylight savings time begins this weekend);
  • Teams can only contact the agents and enter into negotiations. No contracts can be executed until free agency starts at 4 p.m. on Tuesday;
  • Teams can’t meet with players (other than the player’s current club) in any location, and there can be no direct contact between the player and another team;
  • Players who don’t have an agent, such as Ravens safety Ed Reed, can’t be contacted by another team;
  • No visits can be lined up until free agency starts at 4 p.m. EST Tuesday;
  • The three-day window only applies to potential unrestricted free agents. It excludes restricted free agents and franchise players.

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