NFL Free Agency 2013 kicks off tonight, though in an officially unofficial manner.
Allow me to explain.
As recently as a few years ago, NFL Free Agency started at midnight. I remember my first year working for FanSided, in early 2010, I stayed up drinking coffee until about 3 AM just in case the Chiefs made any big moves. They didn’t, but that was the year that Albert Haynesworth signed a huge contract just minutes after midnight.
The NFL, perhaps realizing how popular free agency was among fans, moved the start time from the middle of the night to the afternoon.
Officially, free agency starts on Monday, March 11th at 4 PM eastern time.
But a new rule, instituted in the new CBA, means the free agency bonanza will actually start tonight, March 8th, at midnight.
While no contracts can be signed, teams can start negotiating with soon to be free agents and their agents tonight. The new rules say that agents must talk to the agents and not the players directly.
In previous years, talking with contact with another team’s player before the player’s contract was expired constituted tampering. If the NFL finds a team guilty of tampering, the league will sometimes take away draft picks as punishment.
In reality, tampering happens every year and there have already been indications that it is happening this year. Chances are, talks between teams and players’ agents have already taken place. What makes this year different than any other year is that at midnight tonight, teams and agents won’t have to keep things quiet.
In short, tonight begins a legalized tampering period. That means the Chiefs still have until Monday to try to re-sign DE Glenn Dorsey but once midnight tonight passes, the Oakland Raiders can call Dorsey’s agent and talk contract details.
The reason this signifies the unofficial start of free agency, is because we believe rumors will begin flying tonight and throughout the weekend. Agents will start leaking information about contract offers and talks to inflate increase the market for their clients. Sure, nothing can be signed until Monday but entire deals can be worked out this weekend and then signed immediately after the start of the new league year.
So just like in the old days, Arrowhead Addict will be burning the midnight oils tonight in order to catch any potential rumors and contract talks. I’m picking up a six pack of adult beverages for the occasion and I encourage you to do the same.
We don’t really know how this is going to go down. It’s never happened before so we are entering uncharted territory.