The NFL’s “legal tampering” window, a key precursor to free agency, is expected to begin as scheduled on Monday despite the ongoing impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the operations of U.S. sports leagues.
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For two days prior to the official start of the NFL’s free agency period, teams interested in prospective free agents can negotiate terms of potential contracts. Team executives and player agents can discuss salaries and contract lengths for players that are technically still under contract with other franchises.
NFL teams can’t finalize contracts or announce terms until 4 p.m. ET on March 18, when the NFL’s 2020 league year begins and free agency is open. At that point, key tweaks to the NFL’s financial structure, such as the new salary cap figure or updated terms of a collective bargaining agreement, officially take effect.
The legal tampering window is a critical period for teams looking to pry away star veterans from other teams. The 2020 free agent crop could include several star quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees, if they are unable or unwilling to sign contract extensions with their current teams.
The two-day negotiating period is subject to some restrictions. NFL teams are unable to communicate directly with free agent players, so negotiations must proceed through their agents. Players are also unable to meet with team representatives in person in any capacity.
The coronavirus outbreak has complicated this year’s free agency process. NFL teams have shut down their facilities and canceled all employee travel.
The severity of the crisis has prompted speculation that the NFL could opt to delay the start of its league year. So far, league officials have indicated that they plan to move forward as scheduled.