The brain trust at Behind The Steel Curtain does not consist of a lawyer or legal representative.
We're now strongly considering adding one, because we're confused as to what this memo, issued Friday by the NFL, means, exactly.
Here is the memo, as published by CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora:
TO: General Managers
Player Personnel Directors
FROM: Commissioner Goodell
DATE: March 8, 2013
SUBJECT: Impermissible Activity During the Three-day Negotiating Period for Unrestricted Free Agents
Clubs were advised in PP-26-13 that during the three-day negotiating period for prospective Unrestricted Free Agents, they are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12, and that no contract can be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12.
Clubs are further advised that prior to the beginning of the new League Year it is impermissible for a club to enter into an agreement of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to, or to be offered to, any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year. Any announcement of an agreement or an agreement in principle by a club or another party, including, but not limited to, a certified agent, player, or media organization may subject the club to a tampering investigation.
Please contact the Player Personnel department if you have any questions
So in short, clubs may negotiate with agents, but they cannot imply the reaching of an agreement of any kind, or make any promise, commitment, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind.
What are they supposed to be negotiating, then? Who's picking up the check for lunch?
There's power in words, which are the basis of rules. The interpretation of those words are left to those with formal education, training and experience in such matters. But as an Average Chowderhead, it's hard to discern from this memo how this is in any way different than the manner in which free agency was conducted prior to the new Negotiation Period.
Essentially, teams are permitted to speak with agents, but they cannot come to any sort of agreement, which, per the memo, would include Team A telling Player B they're looking at making an offer in range of $5 million over two years.
This, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, "would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic." In more of Florio's words, it's a direct contradiction to the questions and answers memo the league published March 7.
"Beginning at 12:00 midnight ET on Saturday, March 9 (i.e., after 11:59:59 p.m. ET, on Friday, March 8) and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12."
Will this mean we will hear nothing about which team is courting which free agent? It seems unlikely, considering even when "tampering" wasn't allowed, it seemed to be perfectly acceptable - or at least unpreventable.
We'll just have to wait and see...while we're looking to hire a lawyer to translate the left and right hand messages the league continues to send.