The NFL’s official free agency period doesn’t open until Tuesday afternoon but the Detroit Lions and the league’s other 31 teams can get a jump on things starting today.
Like last year, the league has made provisions for an early window in which teams can negotiate with the agents of players who are set to become free agents when the new league year begins next week. A deal can’t be consummated until next week but we are probably in for a weekend full of news and rumors of varying levels of truth.
After weeks of speculation about who the Lions might pursue, some actual links between the team and players are likely to form this weekend.
The NFL provided the following free agency Q&A in a press release to help explain what an be a complicated and confusing process.
Q. When does the 2014 free agency signing period begin?
A. At 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11.
Q. What is permitted during the three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?
A. Beginning at 12:00 noon ET on Saturday, March 8 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, 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 2013 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.
During this negotiation 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.
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’ 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET 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.
Q. What are the categories of free agency?
A. Players are either “Restricted Free Agents” or “Unrestricted Free Agents.” A Restricted Free Agent may be subject to a qualifying offer. A Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agent may be designated by his prior club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player.
Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?
A. For Restricted Free Agents, from March 11 to May 2. For Unrestricted Free Agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior club, from March 11 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For Franchise Players, from March 11 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, November 11. For Transition Players, from March 11 until July 22. If the above-listed players do not sign by November 11, they must sit out the season.