Rules of NFL Negotiating Period explained

Allison Joyce

ESPN's Adam Schefter lists the NFL's rules on the three day period of time before free agency officially begins. You can do everything but anything that has lasting impact, even if those details are obviously discussed.

As of 12 noon Saturday, March 8, agents of players and teams can discuss anything, but cannot make a formal offer or a legally-binding contract.

They can't meet at the team's permanent facility, but they can meet elsewhere at, say, a Subway or a bar.

ESPN's Adam Schefter highlights all of the rules of the most pretentious three-day period of the NFL schedule (with the exception of the three day long pregame show before the league-opening game) on his Facebook page.

Basically, contracts can't be agreed to, but some kind of non-legally-binding arrangement of goods and services can be worked out between the two, so long as it isn't called a contract.

This clears all the formalities out of the way so a team can start fresh at exactly 4 p.m. ET March 11, the only official time a team can begin discussing contracts.

It's amazing the speed at which players come to formal agreement with teams after the only time they're allowed to discuss contracts. That, or it's amazing the amount of casual conversations they have with them leading into the unpleasant part of the discussion.

Here are the rules, as Mr. Schefter writes about them:

clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expirations of their 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 11.

1. During this negotiating period, a club is permitted to:
a. Submit a written summary of the club's negotiating position to a certified agent;
b. Express its position as to signing bonus, length of contract, amounts of signing bonus and yearly compensation, and other items;
c. Adjust its negotiating position in response to a certified agent's position; and
d. Engage in an oral exchange of positions.

2. A club must express that it is stating a negotiating position, not making an offer. No part of the exchange of information is binding on either party.

3. A club cannot:
a. Execute a contract;
b. Submit a draft of an NFL Player Contract to a certified agent or the player;
c. Make an "offer;"
d. Enter into a written or oral agreement of any kind, express or implied, or make promises or representations of any type concerning the terms or conditions of employment to be offered to any Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year;
e. Provide assurances of intent as to the future execution of an NFL Player Contract;
f. Announce an agreement or an agreement in principle; or
g. Discuss or make travel arrangements for a player.

During this negotiating period, a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent cannot visit a club (other than the player's current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player's current club). If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.

Furthermore, clubs (other than the player's current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective Unrestricted Free Agent players, their certified agents, or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players' contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 11.

The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential Unrestricted Free Agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.

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